Populated territories exchange is legal

International precedents exist and there is no moral barrier to such a plan.

An Israeli Arab woman casts her vote at a polling station in the ‘Triangle’ town of Umm al-Fahm (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Israeli Arab woman casts her vote at a polling station in the ‘Triangle’ town of Umm al-Fahm
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One only has to spend half an hour perusing any of the international media channels to understand that our wider region is witnessing daily carnage on an unbelievable scale. The breakdown of many of the artificially created states in our region into sectarian, ethnic or religious barbarity should give us, as Israelis, pause for thought while conducting any peace negotiations with our neighbors.
However, if we are to accept that we need to partition our land, then we surely must conduct it in an intelligent and serious manner that will end the possibility of further conflict or claims – not for a generation, but for eternity.
As many of the world’s most prominent political scientists have concluded, the greater the homogeneity of a state the lower the risk of conflict and war.
When it comes to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, while discussing the desired resolution to the conflict, many confuse the means with the end. Many see the so-called “two states for two peoples” solution as the end to the conflict. However, the real desired end to the conflict is peace, prosperity and an enduring end to bloodshed for both peoples.
If the parties to the conflict believe that the resolution is through the “two states for two peoples” paradigm, then so be it, but let’s concentrate on how to achieve the desired end, rather than worrying merely about how to achieve the means.
Over the last few decades, many former states around the world were broken up into smaller nations, or new nations were created out of the territories of more established states. What is true of every single one of these new states and their boundaries is that they were created, or, in cases, redrawn, to achieve as much homogeneity as possible for each of the new entities.
Each nation was recognized internationally and legal instruments were created to ensure that no people were left stateless or without citizenship. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 55/153, written in 2001, explicitly states: “When part of the territory of a state is transferred by that state to another state, the successor state shall attribute its nationality to the persons concerned who have their habitual residence in the transferred territory and the predecessor state shall withdraw its nationality from such persons.”
This means that the international community has recognized not only the validity but also the legality of the concept of a state withdrawing its citizenship from those who now live in another state because of newly created boundaries.
This has now become the rule for all conflicts that have ended in the creation of a new state.
So one has to wonder why there are so many objections to the idea, long evinced by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, of a populated territory exchange with the Palestinians that would include the predominantly Arab-populated areas of the so-called Triangle region and Wadi Ara.
There are also those who claim that those Arabs who would become part of a future Palestinian state would reject this. Firstly, we need to beg the question: Why would Arabs who claim to support Palestinian national aspirations reject this plan?
I understand that Israeli Arabs, many of whom continually malign Israel, do not want to become part of a failed, corrupt and poor new state. However, peace can only truly be achieved when a future Palestinian state is free of corruption, is democratic with an established rule of law, and achieves some sort of economic parity with the State of Israel.
Without these elements, a Palestinian state would fail and break apart in a bloody conflict like so many of our neighbors.
Israel does not want this for itself or for the Palestinian people.
So when peace is achieved, there should be no reason why Israeli Arabs, who in the main define themselves as Palestinians, would not want to achieve their national aspirations in the new state. They would not move one inch from their homes or communities; they could continue working as before and be free to cross the border as they choose, and could even perhaps continue to maintain some civic rights in Israel.
The only difference to their lives is that they would vote in national elections for a Palestinian parliament and not the Knesset.
There is an inherent hypocrisy here when those on the Left wish to divide Jerusalem along nationalistic lines and withdraw Israel’s civic responsibilities and rights from the Arabs of East Jerusalem against their purported will, while declaring that doing so elsewhere in the country is suddenly “racist.”
The fact remains that there is no legal or moral barrier to such a plan, neither by precedent nor established international law. The objectors to this plan from the extreme Left are displaying their hypocrisy that will ensure an enduring, bloody Balkanization of our conflict and leave the State of Israel in a far more challenging position in maintaining its status as a Jewish and democratic state.
The writer is Deputy Minister of the Interior, a Member of the Knesset, and Secretary -General of the Yisrael Beytenu political party.