Israeli Arabs reacted strongly against Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s call on Sunday for a land swap that would include some Israeli Arab areas in any future deal with the Palestinians.
Liberman said that the land exchanges would be based roughly on the path of Route 6, which shadows the security barrier through the center of the country, and would leave many Arab towns on the eastern side of the border of a future Palestinian state.
“This not a serious proposal. Not Israel, the Palestinian Authority, or the Americans are considering this proposal during the negotiations, but it is a plan of one person – Liberman,” United Arab List-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “And even if the proposal were raised, it would be rejected.”
Tibi said the proposal, which Liberman has previously raised, seeks to enhance the Jewish character of the state, therefore “necessitating the expulsion of thousands of Arabs. One of the reasons why we Arab MKs are against a Jewish state is because that means fewer Arabs,” said Tibi.
Tibi asked why the plan deals only with some communities near what would be a future border between the two states, but does not include other Arab communities in Israel, such as in the Galilee.
“The person who is behind the proposal to cancel citizenship of the indigenous population is himself a new citizen to the country, immigrating in the 1970s,” he said referring to Liberman.
Asked about Liberman’s statement that Israel should accept no refugees in any deal, Tibi responded that “there will not be a peace deal without dealing with the problem of the refugees.”
“Israel needs to take responsibility for the refugees from a legal and moral point of view,” he said, pointing out that in past negotiations Israel “agreed to accept some refugees, so the problem is the number, not the principle. And despite what [US] Secretary of State John Kerry says, the sides are not close to a deal.”
MK Jamal Zahalka, the head of the Balad Party, told the Post that Israeli Arabs are strongly against Liberman’s proposal and that “more than 99 percent are against it.”
Liberman thinks he can force his plan on the Arabs, but he has no partner for his plan, he said.
Liberman has succeeded in “putting a question mark on our citizenship,” meaning he wants “to weaken Israeli Arabs,” said Zahalka.
Asked if there is logic in uniting Israeli Arabs with Palestinians in the West Bank due to similar national affiliation, he responded that Israeli Arabs refuse to have their community further divided.
There can either be “the borders of 1947 or 1967, but the state cannot separate us from the Galilee or Nazareth,” he said.
Asked if there is a chance of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, he said there is no chance of an agreement “with the current extremist Right-wing Israeli government.”
“Only with external pressure would it be possible,” he said adding that until now such pressure has not been forthcoming from the US administration.
Mohamed Samara, a chemical engineer and football coach who spoke with the Post, is a resident of Tira, an Israeli Arab city to the west of Rout 6. He said he is against Liberman’s plan.
“We are happy here; we have all the rights and live well and don’t want to be sacrificed,” said Samara.
“We do not want to be in a Palestinian state, under a new political area,” he said. “We work here,” he said, noting that his city has good relation with Jews.
Asked if he identifies with Palestinians in the West Bank, Samara responded that he has feelings for them and has some family members that live there.
However, at the same time Samara says he identifies with being an Israeli citizen.
Asked what percentage of residents of Tira would agree with his views, he responded, “90 percent.”