The Israeli press reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has now adopted an idea that had been beyond the pale: transfer– stripping Israeli Palestinians of citizenship without their OK and making them citizens of another country, all of course on a religious-ethnic basis.
A Palestinian lawmaker in Israel’s parliament accused Netanyahu of endorsing a “war crime.”
The news is that in talks with Trump administration officials, Netanyahu has reportedly endorsed the idea of swapping portions of Israeli land containing Palestinian communities for portions of occupied land in the West Bank containing Jewish settlers as a means to establish a Palestinian state.
This idea has long been advocated by Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Defense Minister, who promptly tweeted his pleasure over Netanyahu’s shift.
The idea is shocking to liberals, including liberal Zionists. Lara Friedman of the Foundation for Middle East Peace writes:
Message of Bibi’s endorsement of populated land swaps: citizenship of Jews is inalienable right; citizenship of Arabs is revocable privilege
Marian Houk explains the “Jewish state” angle on this policy:
For this precise reason Palest Arab Israeli MKs insisted that Palestinian leadership reject Bibi’s demand for recognition of *Jewish* state
Haaretz reports the news:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed with Washington in recent weeks the idea of redrawing the borders in any future agreement with the Palestinians, incorporating the major settlement blocs into Israel, while drawing out the heavily populated Israeli-Arab area of Wadi Ara and making it part of a future Palestinian state… The discussions, first reported by Channel 2, mean that Netanyahu – in conversations with US President Donald Trump’s advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt – has adopted a proposal put forward years ago by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has been advocating for several years to hand over Wadi Ara to the Palestinians in a future peace agreement, tweeted on Thursday night: “Mr. prime minister, welcome to the club.”
Wadi Ara is an area in Israel southwest of Afula, and west of Jenin across the old Green Line, that has several Palestinian towns.
Palestinian Israelis are of course enraged by this idea. Again from Haaretz:
[Member of Knesset] Aida Touma-Suliman responded on Thursday to the report about Netanyahu’s proposal. “The cat is out of the bag and Netanyahu has shown his true colors regarding the Arab population,” she said. “Lieberman’s plan has been adopted by the prime minister,” she said.
“The Ara residents are not only Israeli citizens, they’re also indigenous people who dwell on their land, and are not to be compared with settlers dwelling on another nation’s land. We the Arab citizens aren’t part of any such equation and aren’t willing to pay the price again for Israel’s policy of occupation and settlements
Another Palestinian official in Knesset with the Joint List, Yousef Jabareen, said in a statement this morning:
“Netanyahu actually calls to commit war crimes!”
“Netanyahu does not miss any opportunity to continue with his campaign of incitement and de-legitimacy against the Arab population and its leadership. He also exhibits a lot of ignorance when he compares between Arab citizens of Israel and settlers. Arab citizens of Israel were not granted citizenship by grace, but were granted citizenship by the fact that they live in their historical homeland. This is in a stark contrast to the settlers of the West Bank who are illegally occupying the lands they stole by force from their Palestinian owners.”
Jabareen added, “Practically speaking, Netanyahu calls to carry out two war crimes: transfer for Arab citizens, and annexation of illegal settlements. The fate of the war criminals will be at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.”
When Lieberman gave a speech advocating this policy at the U.N. 7 years ago, the Netanyahu government distanced itself from the idea and American Jews condemned it. From Haaretz:
Netanyahu’s advisers tried to downplay the embarrassment caused by Lieberman’s speech, saying a coalition government would be impossible without Lieberman and that ministers can express their personal opinions even in international arenas.
“The international community is aware that this is not the position of the government,” one of the advisers said…
Lieberman’s speech also outraged many American Jews, and some Jewish leaders demanded his resignation.
“If Lieberman can’t keep his personal opinions to himself, he ought to resign from the cabinet,” said Seymour Reich, a former president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.
Let’s see how many U.S. Jewish groups condemn the idea now. As Israel keeps heading to the right, more and more U.S. Jewish leaders have accommodated themselves to the shift. Even veteran liberal Zionists like Aaron David Miller have accepted the idea of Israel defining itself as “the nation state of the Jewish people.”
Thanks to Ofer Neiman and Allison Deger.