Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has instructed Foreign Ministry representatives to file an official complaint with EU countries and the United States over remarks made by a Palestinian official in the U.S. regarding a future Palestinian state being "Judenrein," an official statement said Thursday.
On Wednesday, the Palestine Liberation Organization's Ambassador to the U.S., Maen Areikat, was quoted in a USA Today report as saying that the future Palestinian state should be “free of Jews.”
“After the experience of the last 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it would be in the best interests of the two people to be separated,” USA Today quoted Areikat as saying during a meeting with reporters in Washington.
Lieberman said Areikat's comments are similar to those made previously by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and prove that the Palestinian leadership has adopted the "Judenrein" ideology, the same ideology used by Nazi Germany in its extermination of the Jews.
Nations of the world should take these remarks into account when discussing the Palestinian bid for statehood, Lieberman said according to the statement.
The Foreign Ministry said it was also weighing the option of canceling Israeli participation in the International Donors’ Conference for the Palestinian State, scheduled for next week in New York.
Lieberman's comments come a day after Areikat told The Huffington Post that he was misquoted in the USA Today report.
Areikat clarified his position in an interview with The Huffington Post Wednesday night, saying USA Today had misinterpreted his remarks and that he would never ban Jews from a Palestinian state.
“Under no circumstances was I saying that no Jews can be in Palestine,” Areikat told The Huffington Post by telephone. “What a statement that would be for me to make! I never said that, and I never meant to say such a thing. This is not a religious conflict, and we want to establish a secular state.”
The Huffington Post noted that in the original recording of Areikat's comments during the meeting with reporters, he communicated his “personal” view and said that the separation between Palestinians and Jews would only apply “at first” and not in the long term, showing that his remarks were taken slightly out of context in the USA Today report.
According to The Huffington Post, when asked about a Jewish minority remaining in Palestine, Areikat's full response was: “I personally still believe that as a first step we need to be totally separated, and we can contemplate these issues in the future. But after the experience of the last 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it would be in the best interests of the two peoples to be separated at first.”
Areikat reiterated his opinion to The Huffington Post, saying that Israeli soldiers and settlers -- “persons who are amid an occupation, who are in my land illegally” -- would be blocked from entering the new Palestinian state.
He stressed, however, that he would not want there to be any restrictions on access to religious or holy sites for followers of any religion.
“When it comes to religious freedom and the right of all to visit respective sites in Israel and Palestine, of course all cities should be open to all religions,” he said.
“Jerusalem right now is restricted -- Palestinian Muslims and Christians cannot visit it. Christians, Muslims and Jews must be able to visit their respective sites in both countries. This wasn't even on my mind when he [the reporter] asked the question -- I thought he was talking about settlers staying in Palestine,” Areikat said.
He also expressed discontent over comments made by former U.S. National Security Council official Elliott Abrams in the USA Today report that having a Jew-free Palestinian state would be reminiscent of actions taken by Germany's Nazi regime.
USA Today quoted Abrams as having said that such a demand by Palestinians was objectionable and “a despicable form of anti-Semitism.” In response, Areikat told The Huffington Post that he was upset his views had been compared to those of Nazi Germany.