Israel’s UN ambassador says there is no ‘right of return’ for Palestinians
Israel’s UN ambassador Gilad Erdan has denied the existence of a Palestinian right to a state or to return to their ancestral lands, in a controversial speech at the UN Security Council on Thursday. Erdan argued that the Palestinians are not a distinct people or nation, but rather a collection of Arab tribes that migrated to the region in response to the Zionist movement. He claimed that the concept of a Palestinian right of return is a “myth” that is used to undermine Israel’s legitimacy and Jewish identity.
Erdan’s remarks drew sharp criticism from other members of the Security Council, who expressed their support for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders and the recognition of the Palestinian people’s rights and aspirations. They also condemned Israel’s continued settlement expansion, demolition of Palestinian homes, and violation of international law and human rights in the occupied territories.
US rebukes Israeli minister for similar comments
Erdan’s speech echoed the views of Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who also denied the existence of a Palestinian people or nationhood over the weekend, prompting a rebuke from the US. Smotrich, a Jewish nationalist, said that there was no such thing as a Palestinian people, culture, history, or currency, and that the Palestinians were invented in the past century as a reaction to Zionism.
US National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby said on Monday that the US “utterly object” to Smotrich’s language, and that it was “extremely unhelpful” to the efforts to de-escalate the tensions and find a viable two-state solution. He said that the US does not want to see any rhetoric or action that can stand in the way or become an obstacle to a two-state solution, and that language like Smotrich’s does.
Palestinians slam Israeli officials for ‘racist’ and ‘falsifying’ statements
The Palestinian Authority presidency slammed Erdan and Smotrich’s remarks as “racist” and “an attempt to falsify history”. It said that the Palestinians are the indigenous people of the land, and that they have a long and rich history, culture, and identity that predates Zionism and Israel. It also said that the Palestinians have a legitimate and internationally recognized right to self-determination, statehood, and return, as enshrined in the UN resolutions and the international law.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry also issued a statement, saying that Erdan and Smotrich’s statements reflect the “extremist and colonialist” ideology of the Israeli government, which seeks to deny the Palestinian existence and rights, and to impose a “one-state reality” of apartheid and oppression. It called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for its violations and to support the Palestinian cause for freedom and justice.