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article imageIsraeli Arabs, Palestinians slam Israel land-swap deal

By Abdul Kuddus     Jan 15, 2014 in World
Tel Aviv - An informal and highly controversial land swap deal by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has infuriated Palestinians and Israeli Arabs alike, and they are all out to nip the proposal in the bud.
The plan envisages transfer of some Israeli-held territories (known as the Triangle) along with thousand of Arab-Israeli citizens in exchange for retention of Israeli settlement blocks in the West Bank where Jewish settlers live.
According to Al Jazeera, Lieberman floated the contentious proposal saying "the arrangement would serve and speed up the nationalistic aspirations of both sides."
Lieberman, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly pressed the option of territorial exchanges. He even raised it in recent talks with US and European officials, according to reports.
From the perspective of a Jewish state, the land swap would reduce the Arab population in Israel and would simplify concerns about the dilution of the Jewish character of Israel.
The plan angered the political progressive leaders from Palestine and Israeli-Arab leaders. They have condemned the proposal, saying this could be a prelude toward the final ethnic cleansing of the Arab community in Israel.
The strongest criticism came from former Arab lawmaker Mohammed Baraka. He accused Lieberman’s proposal as "insidious racist designs against Israeli Arabs," Al Jazeera reported.
"What they really have in mind is ethnic cleansing,” he said. “This is the language they understand best. But ethnic cleansing is an ugly word; hence they would want to do it under the rubric of a land swap."
Reportedly the Israeli government is yet to elaborate on the proposal. Lieberman’s plan triggered a fiery debate in the Knesset plenum Wednesday.
Even President Shimon Perez called it “unpractical” emphasizing the citizenships of Arabs living in Israel cannot be snatched, Al Jazeera reported.
Meanwhile, on his Facebook page Lieberman mocked Israeli Arabs for criticizing his proposal and suddenly turning into “Lovers of Zion.”
The Jerusalem Post quoted Lieberman saying:
“The same residents of Umm el-Fahm who want to mark Independence Day as a catastrophe with black flags instead of Israeli flags, the same people who hoist pictures of (Hezbollah leader Hassan) Nasrallah and Hamas and Hezbollah [Unlink] flags are now complaining about becoming citizens of a Palestinian state as part of a peace agreement.”
So far, the aspirations of Arabs in Israel remain uncertain in the context of an Israel-Palestine agreement. While they support the Palestinian cause they do not want to be treated as second-class citizens in Israel.
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