Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has adopted an idea that formerly had been beyond the pale: territorial transfer – stripping Arab-Palestinians of their Israeli citizenship without their approval and making them and their homes part of a future Palestinian state, all, of course, on a religious-ethnic basis. In talks with Trump administration officials, Netanyahu has reportedly endorsed the idea of swapping portions of Israeli territory containing Palestinian communities in Wadi Ara for portions of occupied land in the West Bank containing Jewish settlers. Wadi Ara is an area in Israel populated mostly by Arab citizens of the state, situated northwest of the Green Line, in the Haifa District. Among the Palestinian towns in Wadi Ara is the city of Umm al-Fahem, the home town of the 3 assailants who shot two Israeli police officers to death in the al-Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) compound in occupied East Jerusalem on July 14. Clearly, the ensuing weeks of tension following the deadly incident, and the Palestinian civil disobedience that forced the government to dismantle the security apparatus it installed near the entrances to the compound, a unilateral changing of the status quo on Israel’s part, is linked to Netanyahu’s disingenuous attempt at flexing muscle for his right-wing supporters by coming over to the side of territorial transfer. Just more spin.
Far-right settler Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Defense Minister, has long advocated the idea of territorial transfer and promptly tweeted his pleasure over Netanyahu’s shift. “Welcome to the club!” wrote Lieberman. The discussions, first reported by Israel’s Channel 2 television, means that Netanyahu – in conversations with US President Donald Trump’s advisors Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt – has adopted a proposal put forward years ago by Lieberman.
Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen (Hadash) a resident of Umm al-Fahem said in a statement: “Netanyahu is actually calling to openly commit war crimes!” “He doesn’t miss any opportunity to continue with his campaign of incitement and de-legitimization of the Arab population and its leadership. He also exhibits a lot of ignorance when he makes a comparison between Arab citizens of Israel and settlers. Arab citizens of Israel were not granted citizenship out of mercy, but because they live in their historical homeland. This is in stark contrast to the settlers of the West Bank who are illegally occupying the lands they stole by force from their Palestinian owners.” MK Jabareen added, “Practically speaking, Netanyahu is calling to commit two war crimes: territorial transfer of Arab citizens of Israel, and the annexation of illegal settlements. The fate of the war criminals will be at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.”
Communist Member of Knesset Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash – Joint List) responded on Thursday, July 27, 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.”