Danny Ayalon: Galilee Arabs could declare state

Former ambassador Danny Ayalon announces he's joining Israel Beiteinu, says Jews must move north.

Danny Ayalon 224 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Danny Ayalon 224 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
"If the Israeli government doesn't make sure there is a Jewish majority in the Galilee, the Arab majority could declare independence and [demand] international recognition based on the precedent of [breakaway Georgian provinces South] Ossetia and Abkhazia," Danny Ayalon, former ambassador to the US and current co-chairman of Nefesh B'Nefesh, said at a political gathering in Carmiel Sunday evening. The event marked the official announcement by Ayalon that he was joining the right-wing Israel Beiteinu Party, where he is expected to be chosen for a slot on its Knesset list. Ayalon's first position in the party will be as head of World Israel Beiteinu, a position last filled by MK Yuri Stern, who died in January 2007. "We need as many Jews as possible to move to the Galilee immediately," Ayalon told The Jerusalem Post after the event. "It's a beautiful country. And of course, we must do this without harming the rights of a single Arab." Israel Beiteinu has garnered criticism in Israel and abroad for party chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman's proposal to swap Israeli land on which Israeli Arabs live for West Bank land on which Jews live. The party has stood accused of "racism" in seeking to turn Arab citizens of Israel into citizens of a Palestinian state. But Ayalon rejected the criticism. "The issue of exchanging territories should have been put on the table a long time ago," he told reporters over the weekend, as word of his new party affiliation reached the press. "If I were an Israeli-Palestinian Arab, I would want to join a Palestinian state. I wonder why this has not been proposed by Israel's Arabs." Ayalon insisted that the party, considered to be on the right end of Israeli politics, was "center-right, because it understands the value of deterrence, of negotiating from a position of strength and standing up for Israeli national interests when facing Syria, the Palestinians and Iran." Ayalon also agreed with the party's support for "a market economy that helps needy families; easier conversions; changing the political system so it looks more like the American system; and bringing the Russian sector, which gave Israel the economic and strategic strength it has today, closer to the Israeli mainstream. "I went to Israel Beiteinu after reading its platform and getting to know Yvette [Lieberman] personally," said Ayalon. "This is not a party for one sector, but an Israeli party with clear, rational positions on all sorts of issues." Lieberman welcomed Ayalon's membership, saying, "He is a professional diplomat who will use his skills to contribute to Israel Beiteinu's relationship with the world." Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.