Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman hit back Wednesday over opposition to his plan for a land swap as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians, suggesting that the Israeli Arabs who reject it are not truly loyal to Israel.
With the peace process entering its sixth month since it was rekindled by the United States, Lieberman has also returned to his previous plan for Israel to hand over the predominantly Arab towns and villages in the Wadi Ara area, also known in Israel as the "Triangle."
"The Arabs from Wadi Ara have suddenly become lovers of Zion," Lieberman said. "In television interviews with Umm al-Fahm residents, we have seen those who mark Naqba Day, waving pictures of (Hezbollah leader Hassan) Nasrallah, and Hamas and Hezbollah flags – the same people rebelling against the idea that, as part of a peace agreement, they would become citizens of a Palestinian state."
Avigdor Lieberman (Photo: Shahar Azran)
The Israeli Arabs whose communities would be transferred to a newly formed Palestinian state under Lieberman's scheme say that they want to remain in Israel, and with some speculating that residents of those areas would move in order to do so.
Nonetheless, said Lieberman, the notion of swapping populations and land was not a new one, and had been employed in the past to bring an end to conflicts, and "for the creation of homogenous states."
During a visit to the Technion in Haifa, President Shimon Peres expressed his opposition to the land swaps proposed by Minister Lieberman: "This proposal is not practical. Israel cannot deny citizenship to its citizens because they are Arabs."
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report