Netanyahu: Triangle area won’t be swapped to Palestinians

The land swap is highly controversial, sparking protests in the North and Tel Aviv; Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said he opposes it. PM: there will direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia.

Carpet is seen hanging outside a family's home as a military road runs between the Arab-Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm and the Palestinian village of Anin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank near Jenin (photo credit: REUTERS)
Carpet is seen hanging outside a family's home as a military road runs between the Arab-Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm and the Palestinian village of Anin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank near Jenin
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Triangle area in Israel’s North will not become part of a Palestinian state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with Israeli Arabic-language channel Hala TV on Tuesday night.
Asked about the section of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan that raises the possibility of trading the predominately Arab Triangle area – which includes Umm el-Fahm, Kafr Kara, Baka al-Gharbiya and more – to the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu responded: “There is some vague statement [in the plan] that has no meaning.”
“There will not be any population transfers under any circumstances: I oppose it in principle,” he added.
In recent years and in the immediate aftermath of the plan’s release last month, Netanyahu said that he will not have people forced from their homes on the Israeli or Palestinian side.
The US “Peace to Prosperity” plan did not call for any populations to be moved but did suggest that the border could be redrawn such that the Triangle’s approximately 250,000 Arab citizens of Israel be in a future Palestinian state. However, this was not a core point: the map in the 180-page plan shows Israel swapping land in the Negev near Gaza and Egypt with the Palestinians, and keeps the Triangle in Israel.
The idea of swapping the Triangle was highly controversial and sparked protests in the North and in Tel Aviv. Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has said he opposes it.
Netanyahu also told Hala TV that he does not rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state.
“I agreed to discuss it in the framework of the plan, as long as it does not harm Israel’s security,” he stated.
The prime minister posited that in the coming years, there will be direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, dramatically reducing the cost of completing the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca for Israeli Muslims.
The comment came amid reports of the US pushing for a summit in Cairo between Israel and Sunni states, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others. Should such a meeting take place, it would likely be after the election.
Netanyahu touted his policies to help Israeli Arabs, such as the five-year development plan for the Arab sector that the government passed in 2016, investing about NIS 15 billion, saying that he will continue it.
“If I am prime minister,” he said, “the sky is the limit for what we can do together.”
Netanyahu described meeting a girl in an Arab school who told him that she wants to be a doctor, to which he replied: “You are talented and this is your country. Follow your dreams and you will succeed.”