Zahalka: Liberman aims to weaken Arab community

Balad MK responds to Liberman's comment that Israeli Arabs should be made citizens of the Palestinian Authority.

Jamal Zahalka (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Jamal Zahalka
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
MK Jamal Zahalka, the head of the Balad party, on Wednesday rejected Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman’s proposal on Tuesday that Israeli Arabs should be made citizens of the Palestinian Authority in any future peace agreement.
“We are opposed to this proposal because [Liberman’s] goal is to weaken the Israeli Arab community and we are not choosing to be weakened,” Zahalka told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
According to Zahalka, Liberman’s plan – which proposes a land exchange in which Israel would annex major settlement blocks in the West Bank while Israeli Arab towns would become part of a future Palestinian state – is not realistic.
Furthermore, the Balad MK said, “Israel would win twice; it would have less Arabs here and get more land.”
Zahalka also said that Liberman’s proposal has traveled abroad and that he is being asked about it.
“I told them that there is a rejection to this idea in our community. More than 90 percent are against it,” he said.
“Israel has made life in the West Bank a hell and intolerable, and nobody wants to move there.”
Likud Beytenu MK Moshe Feiglin said that the Yisrael Beytenu chairman’s plan had both a positive aspect and a negative one.
“The good part of Liberman’s suggestion is that it proves the fact that there is no Palestinian nationality because if there was, economic reasons would not be enough to prevent them from their own sovereignty. Never in the history of the world was there a nation that claimed to be living under occupation, but would give up its freedom for economic reasons.”
However, Feiglin continued, “After saying that, I am not in favor of Liberman’s suggestion because his plan would give away parts of Israel and for me every grain of Israeli soil is holy and I am not willing to give up on it.”
Liberman’s comments came after thousands of Israeli Arabs took part in the annual “right of return” march near Umm al- Fahm in the Wadi Ara region of central Israel on Tuesday. The march takes place on Independence Day, mourns the founding of the Jewish state and calls for the right of return for Arabs who fled their homes or were expelled in 1948.
Zahalka took part in the march, referring to Independence Day celebrations as “a dance on Palestinian blood and a provocation of Palestinian feelings and denial of their tragedy.”
He told the Post that the Palestinians are “one community,” adding, “We are not ready to be moved from one citizenship to another and lose our land, rights and relations with our people.”
He said that if Israel was willing to go back to the pre-1967 borders, thus giving the PA more land, then perhaps negotiations could occur over giving up more land that would include Israeli Arab towns.
However, he added, “The immediate result of this proposal is to put a question mark on our citizenship – that at any time it could be changed.”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.