ALBAWABA - Jordan and Palestine condemned comments by Israel's finance minister who denied Palestinian history, culture and people while addressing a crowd from a podium with a flag that showed Israel's borders engulfing the kingdom and the West Bank.
The development enraged Jordan, which has become increasingly fed up with statements and insinuations by successive hardline Israeli politicians, who favor turning the Arab kingdom into a home for Palestinians by forcibly deporting the remaining West Bank population there.
Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the comments by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich reflected a "racist, provocative and inciteful thinking and reckless behavior, which will not undermine our rights and territorial sovereignty and integrity."
"We unequivocally condemn such statements and we communicated this to the Israeli government in the strongest and clearest terms," the Jordanian foreign minister told a press conference in Amman on Tuesday.
Israel's Foreign Ministry later wrote on Twitter: "Israel is committed to the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan. There has been no change in the position of the State of Israel, which recognizes the territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom."
Israel is committed to the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan. There has been no change in the position of the State of Israel, which recognizes the territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom.— Israel Foreign Ministry (@IsraelMFA) March 20, 2023
Speaking from the podium in France, Smotrich asked: "Is there a Palestinian history or culture?"
"There is none," he is heard saying in footage of the speech he gave on Sunday at a conference in France shared widely on social media. "There is no such thing as a Palestinian people."
#Israel's Finance Minister & de facto West Bank Ruler says Palestinians are a made-up people demanding made-up rights only as a plot to undermine Israel!— Muhammad Shehada (@muhammadshehad2) March 20, 2023
He gets warm applauds in Paris!
Smotrich built his house illegally (under Israeli law) on a privately owned Palestinian land pic.twitter.com/hIJLNGZsKH
Smotrich, with responsibility in the West Bank being the area's de factor ruler, heads a religious-nationalist party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-right coalition.
He gave the speech on the same day that Israeli and Palestinian officials met in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm Sheikh for de-escalation talks ahead of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover holiday.
After far-right Israeli minister Bezalel Smotrich calls Palestinians a "made-up people," U.S. says it "utterly objects to that kind of language. It’s extremely unhelpful to deescalating tensions and trying to find a viable two state solution going forward" https://t.co/9cuo7UFbIP— Ben Samuels (@Bsamuels0) March 20, 2023
Smotrich did not refer to Jordan in his speech. But he addressed the crowd from a podium embellished in a variation of the blue-and-white Israeli flag that showed a state with stretched borders that cover the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and also Jordan.
The map is based on the crest of the "Irgun," also known as "Etzel," the National Military Organization in British-mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1949). The militant group claimed the entirety of historic Palestine and Jordan as part of a Jewish state.
In Paris, where he argued that Palestinians don't exist, Israeli FinMin Smotrich spoke above a flag of the "greater land of Israel" containing the Kingdom of Jordan, a sovereign state that maintains peace agreements with Israel & enjoys excellent ties with the West. https://t.co/Sx1po3F8nl— Noga Tarnopolsky נגה טרנופולסקי نوغا ترنوبولسكي (@NTarnopolsky) March 20, 2023
Israel seized the West Bank, including the traditionally Arab East Jerusalem, and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East War. Subsequently, it annexed East Jerusalem and declared it as part of the indivisible and eternal capital of the Jewish state _ a step that violated United Nations resolutions, which call for the return of the land to its rightful Palestinian owners.
The future of the West Bank and Jerusalem was to be determined in Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations, which stalled years ago.
In the West Bank, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh chastised Smotrich's remarks, saying they amounted to incitement to violence.
Jordan, which made peace with Israel in 1994, voiced outrage over the flag on stage and summoned the Israeli ambassador to protest.
Jordanian political scientist Hassan Momani told Albawaba that the Israeli comments and insinuations mark a "political escalation" and constitute a "flagrant violation of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty" by an "extremist member of Israel's hardline, right-wing government."
Albawaba writer Razan Abdelhadi contributed to this article.