By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The US sharply rebuked on Tuesday Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich's denial of the existence of the Palestinian people, saying that in addition to them being "inaccurate" they are "dangerous."
State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said the comments "are deeply concerning, and candidly, they're dangerous."
"The Palestinians have a rich history and culture, and the United States greatly values our partnership with the Palestinian people," Patel told reporters at the State Department.
In a speech Sunday in Paris, Smotrich denied the existence of the Palestinian people, saying the Palestinians were "an invention" from the last century and people like himself and his grandparents were the “real Palestinians.”
"There is no such thing as Palestinians because there is no such thing as a Palestinian people,” he said.
The minister delivered the incendiary comments from a podium adorned with a map adorned with a picture of "greater Israel," which included occupied Palestinian territories and Jordan. Amman sharply rebuked Smotrich for using the image, saying it is a violation of the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan.
Addressing the image, Patel said the map is "inaccurate and provocative."
Turning to a just-passed amendment in the Israeli parliament that reportedly allows for Israelis to resettle four illegal Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank that were evacuated in 2005, Patel said the legislation would "further incite tensions, and put a negotiated two-state solution further away," and is a "clear contradiction" of vows the Israeli government made to the US.
"The US strongly urges Israel to refrain from allowing the return of settlers to the area covered by the legislation, consistent with both former Prime Minister Sharon and the current Israeli government's commitment to the United States," he said.
"Advancing settlements is an obstacle to peace and the achievement of a two-state solution. This certainly includes creating new settlements, building or legalizing outdoors, or allowing building of any kind on private Palestinian land or deep in the West Bank adjacent to Palestinian communities, all of which would be facilitated by this legal change," he said.