Avigdor Lieberman is right to say that it’s better to have as few minorities as possible residing in the territory of a nation-state. The aspiration for such reality affected the shaping of European borders in the wake of the two world wars. The difference has to do with the circumstances: There, the victors forced their will upon the defeated parties; this is much more difficult to achieve through free negotiations.
Let’s do Lieberman justice: He does not propose the expulsion of people from their homes and land. The term “transfer” is incommensurate with his initiative. He proposes to mark the border in such way that many Arabs will find themselves east of it.
Arab spokespeople are outraged by this, yet are having trouble explaining what’s so wrong with it. They do not wish to renounce their status as Israelis, yet at the same time claim that this identity had been forced upon them. Their excuses are irrelevant here. Only one thing is important: Some 1.3 million Israeli citizens, who constitute roughly one-fifth of the country’s population, will strongly object to Lieberman’s proposal, and we cannot implement it without their agreement.
Yet let’s assume that everyone does agree. When will the border pass in a way that pushes as many Arabs as possible out of Israel without uprooting Jews, without tearing apart the state’s map, and without jeopardizing Israel’s security?
Lieberman hints that the communities known as the “Triangle area” in northern Israel will be handed over to a Palestinian state, yet he refuses to present his vague offer for scrutiny. It appears that he is referring to the group of Arab communities along the old border. In this case, the “demographic benefit” would be roughly 250,000 people, which make up roughly one-sixth of all Arab Israelis (including Jerusalem residents.)
The obvious price is that Israel’s narrow borders – the “Auschwitz borders” as Abba Eban referred to them – would become even narrower. Moreover, realizing Lieberman’s wish would turn Israel’s map into something resembling a patchwork blanket sown by a person suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
And what shall we get in return? About 250,000 Israelis will become citizens of Palestine; this is less than the number of Jerusalem’s Arab residents. These people are Israeli citizens just like Lieberman. Many of them own property west of the imaginary borderline. Almost all of them have relatives west of it. Almost all of them make a living away from their communities.
So will they lose their place of work at once? Can the labor market bear their absence? What shall happen if thousands of them choose to move westward? Will we dispatch our immigration policy to nab them and expel them across the new border? Or will the border be opened every morning and they will be allowed to move freely between their homes in the free Palestinian and Israel? This doesn’t sound like a successful recipe for boosting our national security.
Lieberman assumes that his audience would not be scrutinizing the details, but rather, be impressed by the magic solution inherent in his decisive initiative: Hocus pocus and there you have it – 250,000 Arab Israelis disappear.
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