Netanyahu Should Withdraw Statement that Opposing Settlements is Un-American

October 6, 2014

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement in a TV interview that opposing Jewish settlements is against American values and implies support for ethnic purification of the West Bank is an outrageous perversion of the truth.

J Street calls on Mr. Netanyahu to apologize and to withdraw his remarks. In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” the prime minister said he was “baffled” by US condemnation of Israel’s latest settlement announcement last week in which it gave final approval to a plan to build 2,610 new housing units south of Jerusalem.

“It’s against the American values. And it doesn’t bode well for peace,” Netanyahu said. “The idea that we’d have this ethnic purification as a condition for peace, I think it’s anti-peace.”

The statement ignores the fact that for the 47 years of the occupation, successive Israeli governments have built dozens of settlements and related infrastructure on expropriated land while exploiting Palestinian resources, including water and agricultural land.

It also ignores the fact that today over 40 percent of the West Bank is zoned for the exclusive use of settlers. Palestinians are not allowed to live in Israeli settlements or drive on Israeli-only roads connecting these settlements through “security zones” surrounding the settlements.

For a foreign leader to characterize the principled opposition to settlements of every US administration since 1967 – the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama – as being against American values gives new meaning to the word “chutzpa.”

To dismiss the principled opposition to settlements of the Americans, including the vast majority of American Jews who love Israel but worry about its long-term future as a democracy and Jewish homeland, is likewise unconscionable.

What is really against American values is denying another people, who have been living under military occupation for decades, their fundamental rights.

In the face of this latest provocation, we renew our call on President Obama to take a tougher stance against settlement expansion, which has gone virtually unchecked for decades and which now threatens to strangle hopes for a two-state solution.

Among other steps, the administration should return to defining West Bank settlements as “illegal,” as was the position of the US government before the 1980s and as is the view of the United Nations and most other countries including all of the European Union.