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Senior Israeli official blasted as "racist" for saying there's "no such thing as a Palestinian nation"

What's behind the violence and protests in Israel?
What's behind the violence and protests in Israel? 06:02

A senior member of Israel's far-right government was blasted as a "racist" Tuesday by Jordan's top diplomat for dismissing saying there is "no such thing as a Palestinian nation."

"There is no Palestinian history. There is no Palestinian language," Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich added at a Sunday memorial service in France for a right-wing French-Israeli activist who had held similar views.

"These statements are provocative, racist and come from an extremist figure and we call on the international community to condemn it," Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told journalists at a news conference Tuesday.

Israel's Finance Minister and leader of the Religious Zionist Party Bezalel Smotrich attends a meeting at the parliament, known as the Knesset, in Jerusalem, March 20, 2023. GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP/Getty

The lectern at which Smotrich spoke on Sunday was decorated with an image depicting the state of "Greater Israel," which included within its borders the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and neighboring Jordan. 

Safadi said Smotrich's remarks in front of the map image were a "reckless inflammatory act and a violation of international norms and the peace treaty" Jordan and Israel signed in 1994. Jordan then summoned Israel's ambassador.

Asked to respond to Smotrich's remarks on French soil, Anne-Claire Legendre, a spokeswoman for France's foreign ministry, called 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."  

Israel's foreign ministry released a statement Monday saying "there has been no change in the position of the State of Israel, which recognizes the territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom" [of Jordan].

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Smotrich is one of the most extreme members of Israel's new far-right, ultra-nationalist government. A settler leader, he has a history of opposing Palestinian statehood and making offensive comments about Palestinians, LGBTQ people and other minority groups. 

When Israeli settlers rampaged in the Palestinian West Bank town of Hawara last month, Smotrich called for the community to be "wiped out," causing an international uproar. He later apologized.

Smotrich's comments on Sunday came as Israeli and Palestinian officials held another meeting, mediated by officials from Egypt, Jordan and the U.S., during which both delegations pledged to try to maintain peace heading into the sensitive holiday season when Muslims observe Ramadan and Jews observe Passover.

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