Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday accused the international community of “deafening silence” in response to recent vows by the head of the Hamas militant group to fight on until the Jewish state is destroyed, and appeared unmoved by the gathering storm of global condemnation of his government’s plans to continue settling the West Bank.
Netanyahu’s tough words were likely to deepen the rift between Israel and some of its closest allies, particularly in Europe, that has emerged since the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of Palestinian independence last month. In a sign of the tense relations, EU foreign ministers were gathered in Brussels to condemn new settlement construction that Netanyahu has authorized in response to the UN decision.
Speaking to foreign reporters, Netanyahu accused the international community of having double standards, condemning not-yet-built settlements in the West Bank, while standing quiet during a historic visit to the Gaza Strip by Hamas’ exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal.
Making his first trip to the Hamas-ruled territory over the weekend, Mashaal delivered a series of speeches to throngs of supporters vowing to wipe Israel off the map. The visit underscored Hamas’ rising clout and regional acceptance since its eight-day conflict with Israel last month.
Netanyahu also directed his ire at Hamas’ rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, for not speaking out.
“This weekend, the leader of Hamas, sitting next to the Hamas leader of Gaza, a man who praised Osama Bin Laden, this weekend openly called for the destruction of Israel. Where was the outrage? Where were the UN resolutions? Where was President Abbas?” Netanyahu said.
“Why weren’t Palestinian diplomats summoned to European and other capitals to explain why the PA president not only refused to condemn this, but actually declared his intention to unite with Hamas. There was nothing, there was silence and it was deafening silence,” he added.
Netanyahu has long complained that the world unfairly singles out Israel for criticism. In Monday’s address, he accused the UN of passing an unbalanced resolution that supported Palestinian independence, but did not address Israeli security concerns.
The UN resolution recognized a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. Just eight countries sided with Israel in opposing the vote.
Although it does not end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the resolution gave an international endorsement to the Palestinian position on the borders between Israel and a future Palestine. It also amounted to a broad condemnation of Israeli settlements in the two areas. Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005.
Netanyahu, who rejects a return to Israel’s 1967 lines, responded to the UN resolution with plans to build thousands of new homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The most contentious plan is to develop a corridor linking east Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim, one of the largest Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
The Palestinians say this project, known as E1, would deal a death blow to any hopes for peace since it would separate the West Bank from east Jerusalem, their hoped-for capital, and drive a deep wedge between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank by creating a string of settlements jutting nearly halfway across the West Bank.