Jordan accuses Israel of violating peace treaty after minister’s Paris speech

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich denied the existence of a Palestinian people and displayed a map of “Greater Israel,” including Jordan.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich addresses a press conference in Tel Aviv, March 2, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich addresses a press conference in Tel Aviv, March 2, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

Jordan on Monday accused Israel of violating the countries’ 1994 peace agreement after Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich denied the existence of a Palestinian people.

Speaking in Paris on Sunday at an event honoring the late Likud activist Jacques Kupfer, the leader of the Religious Zionism Party said, “Jacques’s truth must be told with all our might and without confusion: He said there is no such thing as Palestinians—because there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.”

Smotrich continued: “We need to tell the truth without bowing to the lies and distortions of history, and without succumbing to the hypocrisy of BDS and the pro-Palestinian organizations.”

On Monday, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry summoned Israel’s ambassador in Amman over the comments and also to protest a map of “Greater Israel” displayed during Smotrich’s speech that showed Jordan, as well as Judea and Samaria, within the borders of the Jewish state.

“We condemn the racist, inciting and extremist statements by the extremist Israeli minister against the Palestinian people and its right to exist,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesperson in a statement.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry on Monday in a Twitter post reaffirmed Jerusalem’s commitment to the peace treaty.

“Israel is committed to the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan. There has been no change in the position of the State of Israel, which recognizes the territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom,” the tweet read.

Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi also did diplomatic damage control, tweeting that he had spoken with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and assured him “of the commitment the Government of Israel has to uphold the peace treaty between our two countries which has strengthened the stability and the security of our region for nearly 30 years.”

Two other countries that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel—Egypt and the United Arab Emirates—along with Saudi Arabia, also criticized Smotrich’s remarks.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s condemnation and denunciation of the offensive and racist statements made by an official of the Israeli occupation government against the State of Palestine and its brotherly people,” the Saudi ministry said in a statement posted to Twitter.

The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah also condemned Smotrich’s statement.

The Palestinian Authority’s official WAFA news agency quoted P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh as saying on Monday before a government meeting that Smotrich’s “inflammatory” remarks show the “extremist, racist, Zionist ideology that governs the current Israeli government.” In a statement, the Palestinian Presidency called Smotrich’s comments a “falsification of history and racism.”

‘A rich culture and history’

Condemnation also came from the United States and European Union, with U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price telling Jordanian public broadcaster Al-Mamlaka that Smotrich’s comments and display of the “Greater Israel” map were “offensive.”

“The Palestinians have a rich history and culture, and the United States highly appreciates our partnership with the Palestinian people,” Price was quoted as saying.

European Union foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday urged Israel to reject Smotrich’s remarks. “The comments of Minister Smotrich go, once again, in the opposite direction and certainly cannot be tolerated. I call on the Israeli government to disavow those comments and to start working together with all parties to defuse tensions,” he said at a news conference.

Israel recently indicated that Borrell was not welcome in the Jewish state due to his comments earlier this month equating Palestinian terrorist attacks with counterterror operations undertaken by the Israel Defense Forces.

During his speech on Sunday, Smotrich explained that he could also be considered Palestinian, given he is a descendant of those who lived in Mandatory Palestine during British rule. “My grandfather, who was the 13th generation in Jerusalem, is the real Palestinian. My grandmother, who was born in Metula more than 100 years ago to a family of pioneers, is Palestinian,” he said.

The Palestinians claim that they descend from the Canaanites—the Semitic civilization that inhabited the southern Levant region before it was called Israel. “The Palestinian Arab people have existed on this land since the history of their Canaanite ancestors,” Shtayyeh said recently in a speech.

“The Palestinian people are the real owners of the land and not the Jewish people,” said Shtayyeh, echoing what P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas has said on multiple occasions.

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