Gulf Nations Confront US Over Israeli Minister’s Comments

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said in a statement on Sunday that it had sent a letter to the head of American diplomacy to denounce comments by the Israeli finance minister denying the existence of the Palestinians as individuals and as a people.

“There are no Palestinians because there is no Palestinian people,” said Minister Bezalel Smotrich, on a private visit to Paris, quoting the words of Jacques Kupfer, a Franco-Israeli Zionist activist, during a ceremony in his memory on March 19.

In a letter addressed to the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, the foreign ministers of the six Arab countries members of the GCC called on Washington to “assume its responsibilities, responding to all measures and declarations aimed at the Palestinian people” and to “play its role in achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to the statement.

The State Department had deemed “offensive” and “dangerous” the remarks of far-right minister Bezalel Smotrich, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government.

Standardization by The Abraham Accords

The heads of Saudi, Qatari, Emirati, Bahraini, Kuwaiti and Omani diplomacy, meeting this week in Riyadh, also denounced remarks made by this same minister at the end of February.

On February 26, two young Israeli settlers were shot dead in their car in Huwara, a Palestinian town in the northern occupied West Bank. In retaliation, settlers attacked Huwara, burning dozens of buildings and cars. “I think Huwara should be annihilated,” said Minister Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionism party, before recanting in the face of international outcry over his remarks.

The GCC includes the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which normalized relations with Israel under the US-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020. But Saudi Arabia, the organization’s leader, conditions the normalization with Israel to the creation of a Palestinian state.

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