Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Palestinian opposition to settlements amounts to “ethnic cleansing”, has been criticised by Barack Obama’s administration.

In the video released this week, the Israeli prime minister likens residents of the settlements to Arabs born in Israel, adding that: “No one would seriously claim that the nearly 2 million Arabs living inside Israel – that they’re an obstacle to peace,” he said.

“That’s because they aren’t. On the contrary. Israel’s diversity shows its openness and readiness for peace. Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one pre-condition: No Jews. There’s a phrase for that: It’s called ethnic cleansing.”

A spokesperson for the US government said: “We obviously strongly disagree with the characterisation that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank.” They added:  “We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful.”

Prompted by a reporter, the spokesperson confirmed that Netanyahu’s video, posted Friday to Facebook, where he makes the claim, led to questions from the Obama administration.

“We are engaging in direct conversations with the Israeli Government on this,” she said.