Abbas rebuffs Liberman proposals for land swaps

Peres rejects FM's idea of exchanging heavily Arab-populated areas in pre-1967 lines for additional West Bank land.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
January 8, 2014 19:43
2 minute read.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a PLO meeting in Ramallah, October 2, 2013.

Abbas looking unhappy 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)

 
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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s idea of swapping heavily Arab-populated land in pre-1967 Israel for additional West Bank territory, in a meeting on Wednesday with MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al).

Liberman’s proposal was a provocation, Abbas told Tibi.

The idea had not been raised in American-mediated negotiations with Israel, and if it would, it would be completely rejected, the PA president said.

Liberman mocked Arab MKs and other Israeli Arabs for criticizing his proposal, in a statement on his Facebook page.

He said they had suddenly decided that Zionist leader Theodor Herzl was their hero and the national anthem “Hatikva” was their favorite song.

“The Arabs of Wadi Ara have become Lovers of Zion,” Liberman wrote mockingly.

“The same residents of Umm el-Fahm who want to mark Independence Day as a catastrophe with black flags instead of Israeli flags, the same people who hoist pictures of [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah and Hamas and Hezbollah flags are now complaining about becoming citizens of a Palestinian state as part of a peace agreement.”

Liberman criticized Abbas for not wanting Israeli Arabs as Palestinian citizens after insisting on the release of Israeli Arab terrorists from Israeli prisons. He also slammed “Leftist snobs and a number of hangers-on” for protesting the possibility of Israeli Arabs’ citizenship being changed without them having to move, after not complaining about Gush Katif settlers being expelled from their homes.

The “hangers-on” Liberman was thought to have been referring to were Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who came out against his proposal on a tour of Sakhnin on Tuesday, and Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir, who was also critical.


Liberman’s veiled criticism of Sa’ar and Shamir was significant, because Sa’ar is the No. 2 man in the Likud and Shamir is Liberman’s No. 2 in Yisrael Beytenu.

President Shimon Peres called Liberman’s proposal “neither practical nor principled.”

Israel had no right to remove citizenship from Israeli Arabs, he said.

A fiery debate was held on Liberman’s proposal in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday.

Hadash leader Muhammad Barakei called the proposal racist, because it is intended to minimize the number of Arabs within Israel’s final borders. Israeli Arabs cannot be equated with West Bank settlers because Israeli Arabs have lived on their land for hundreds of years, Barakei said.

“There is only one place for Liberman’s proposal: The dustbin of history,” he said.

Tibi said the struggle against fascism and racism belonged to both Jews and Arabs, who together would defeat “these delusional ideas.”

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