Josep Borrell
Josep BorrellReuters

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, on Monday denounced Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who said during a speech in Paris that "there is no such thing as a Palestinian people".

“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,” Borrell told reporters.

“It is not the first time that I have to express our concerns regarding the spiralling violence on the ground and we – the European Union – we have constantly advocated for measure of de-escalation, not inflammatory. The latest meetings in Aqaba, and in Sharm El Sheikh go in a good direction, but I have to deplore this unacceptable comment by Minister Smotrich. It is wrong; it is disrespectful; it is dangerous; it is counterproductive to say this kind of things in a situation which is already very tense,” he added.

Borrell said the EU “will continue on our longstanding commitment to the two-state solution with an independent and sovereign state of Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace and security. I am sorry if some don’t like to listen to this kind of things, but this is the position of the European Union. It is not the personal position of the High Representative. It is the European Union position. Maybe some don’t say that so clearly and so loudly, but it is what it is, and I repeat: it is wrong, it is disrespectful, it is dangerous, it is counterproductive in a situation like this to say this kind of things. Could you imagine if a Palestinian leader would have said ‘the State of Israel does not exist?’ What would have been the reaction?”

Speaking at a tribute event in memory of Likud activist Jacques Kupfer, who died of cancer two years ago, Smotrich said, "Jacques' 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. 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."

Smotrich claimed in his remarks that he himself is Palestinian. "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."

Earlier on Monday, the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned Smotrich, calling his speech “reckless incitement and a violation of international norms and the Jordanian Peace Treaty.”

Hours later, the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it had summoned the Israeli Ambassador in Jordan for a reprimand following Smotrich’s speech.

Israel’s National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi said on Monday night that he spoke to Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi following the uproar over Smotrich's speech.

“I 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 and that we are committed to the entire territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” said Hanegbi.

“Additionally, I relayed to FM Safadi the important contributions made by King Abdullah in ensuring the successes of both the meetings in Aqaba and Sharm El Sheikh, which included participation of Jordan, Egypt, the United States, the PA and Israel,” he added.