Israel’s Foreign Minister has doubled down on a plan to transfer Palestinian villages within Israel to a future Palestinian state. But Palestinian leaders within Israel have firmly rejected the proposal, which could strip the Israeli citizenship hundreds of thousands of Palestinians hold.
Last week, Maariv published a report claiming that Israel had told U.S. officials that the transfer plan should be part of a future peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Four days later, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman raised the transfer plan again, which would swap Palestinian villages from an area known as the Triangle in exchange for Israel’s annexation of settlement blocs.
“It’s appropriate to talk about an issue that is not exactly politically correct,” Lieberman said in a speech that also included praise for Secretary of State John Kerry. “I’m talking of course of the exchange of territory and populations. And if someone thinks that I’m talking about an exchange of territory and ‘the triangle’ and Wadi Ara – indeed, that’s what I am referring to.” The proposal would redraw Israel’s border to get rid of 300,000 Palestinian citizens and, if the settlement blocs are annexed, boost Israel’s Jewish majority.
Lieberman also stressed support for the transfer plan when he came to the U.S., as Mondoweiss’ Allison Deger reported. First proposed in 2004, the so-called “Lieberman Plan” has been raised during high-level negotiations between Israeli officials and the Palestinian Authority.
In the wake of Lieberman’s comments, Palestinian citizens have slammed any plans to strip their citizenship. Ma’an News reports that the Monitoring Committee of Arabs in Israel came out in strong opposition to Lieberman’s comments. Jamal Zahalka, a Balad party Knesset member, told the Jerusalem Post that Lieberman was putting a “question mark” on Palestinians’ citizenship in Israel. And officials from the Palestinian city of Umm al-Fahm, which would be part of any transfer plan, called the proposal a “second Nakba.”
“We are the children of this land. We inherited it from our ancestors, and nobody can speak or negotiate on our behalf in any future agreement with the Palestinians,” the city said in a statement, according to Haaretz. Polls of Palestinian Israelis have consistently showed majority opposition to any plan that would leave them as residents of the West Bank.
Interestingly, Israel’s Interior Minister–perhaps aware of the damage Lieberman’s proposal could do to Israel’s image–also criticized the transfer plan. “An Israeli citizen is not an object and cannot be moved under a peace accord,” Gideon Sa’ar, the minister, said while visiting the Palestinian city of Sakhnin. “The Arab citizens of Israel are citizens with equal rights, and their citizenship must not be hindered under any future peace deal.”