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Ali Haider
Arabs here to stay
'Population exchange' notion leaves Arab-Israelis no choice but to seek world's help
The notion known as "population exchange," a term that aims to conceal the transfer principle inherent in disengaging from the Wadi Ara region and handing it over to the Palestinian Authority, has again been placed on the public agenda.

 

Yet what is special this time around and arouses great concern is the fact this issue was raised by the country's two top figures: Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres. We are talking about ideas that were apparently agreed to by the prime minister and are being discussed with the Palestinian Authority as a basis for engaging in diplomatic negotiations.

 

Before Avigdor Lieberman joined the government, all those concerned about democracy warned against the possibility that he would make use of his status to implement his racist plans to disengage from Wadi Ara and hand it over to the Palestinian Authority. Now, it appears that the government adopted Lieberman's way as its official policy towards Arab citizens.

 

Those who thought that by bringing Lieberman into the government it would be possible to restrain him and thwart his plans erred gravely. On the contrary, Lieberman was able to inculcate most Knesset members, as well as the government and presidential institution, with his ideas.

 

Moreover, about a year ago more than 64 percent of Jewish citizens expressed their willingness to back the government in encouraging the emigration of Arab citizens to other countries. According to media publications, Israel will engage in territorial negotiations, and among other ideas one possibility being looked into is the tradeoff of settlement blocs in exchange for blocs of Arab communities within Israel.

 

Arab citizens in the State of Israel made it clear many times that they are uninterested in moving to the Palestinian Authority and renouncing their citizenship, for several reasons.

 

Civil war possible 

Firstly, there should be no comparison or symmetry between Arab citizens who constitute a native minority and the original homeland owners and a group of occupying settlers. Any despicable attempt to make such a comparison points to a lack of logic, malicious intent, and unwillingness to advance peace moves with the Palestinian people and promote equality between Jews and Palestinians in Israel.

 

Secondly, the Arab population in Israel is one national group whose social and cultural formulation since 1948 enjoys collective aspects, and it lives in four major geographic areas: Galilee, the Triangle region, the Negev, and mixed cities. Therefore, it is impossible that any one of these groups be treated differently than the others. The implication of this is that Umm al-Fahm, located in the Wadi Ara region, should be treated just the same as Nazareth in Galilee and Rahat in the Negev.

 

Thirdly, those raising the possibility of "exchanging land and its population" are doing so in order to undermine the legitimacy of Arab citizens and in order to convey the message that they are not equal citizens, but rather, that their citizenship is conditional, inferior, and meaningless.

 

Should the government approve the new outline, it would convey a highly negative message to the Arab citizens, continue to undermine stability, and threaten their status and future – this could bring about needless tensions and ongoing hostility.

 

It is impossible that a prime minister who three months ago declared, at the Israel Institute of Democracy, that "Arab citizens are part of the State of Israel and entitled to enjoy equal rights in the State of Israel with all the courage and breadth of what these words entail...", now subjects their citizenship to diplomatic negotiations.

 

In light of the situation, Arab citizens have no choice but to turn to international organizations and nations of the world that believe in the principles of democracy and attach importance to basic human and civil rights, and ask for their immediate intervention and help in thwarting these moves before they reach the implementation stage. Because then we may see a civil war that would ignite the sensitive and tense relationship between Israel's two population groups.

 

The writer is the co-director of the Sikkuy non-profit organization for the advancement of civic equality

 

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