The US State Department on Tuesday joined the growing chorus of condemnation of Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich over his speech in which he said that "there is no such thing as a Palestinian people."
State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said that the Biden Administration found Smotrich's remarks "to not only be inaccurate but also deeply concerning and dangerous."
"The Palestinians have a rich history and culture," Patel said.
Earlier Tuesday, French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre called Smotrich's comments “infuriating and irresponsible.”
Legendre said: "We call on those who were called to senior positions in the Israeli government to show the appropriate respect, to treat others with respect, and to avoid any action or statement that contributes to an escalation in tensions."
Smotrich said in a speech in Paris Sunday night that "the Palestinian people are an invention that is less than 100 years old."
"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," Smotrich said.
He noted the rules of international law and said that "the rules have five characteristics that define a nation - history, culture, language, currency and historical leadership. Who was the first Palestinian king? What language do the Palestinians have? Has there ever been a Palestinian currency? Is there a Palestinian history or culture? There isn’t any."
The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, also condemned Smotrich's speech and demanded that the Israeli government condemn it.
“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 yesterday (Monday).
“It is not the first time that I have to express our concerns regarding the spiraling 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?”