Arab villagers 'don't want to live in Palestine'
Revelation of former FM Livni's proposal during peace talks to transfer some Arab-Israeli villages to future Palestinian state as part of land swap 'indicative of racism, discrimination against Israel's Arabs,' Barta'a resident says; another villager says 'it would be a good thing for us to unite with Palestinians'
Many Arab-Israelis were enraged following the publication of leaked documents which revealed that Ehud Olmert's government offered to transfer some of Israel's Arab villages to a future Palestinian state as part of a land-swap deal.
"Tzipi Livni can conduct business at the expense of her own home and community, but not at the expense of Baqa al-Gharbiya. We will remain on our lands," said Adris Moasi, a resident of the Arab village, which is mentioned in the documents.
According to the secret memos, in January 2008 then-Foreign Minister Livni explained privately that there are "some Palestinian villages located on both sides of the 1967 line about which we need to have an answer, such as Beit Safafa, Barta'a, Baqa al-Sharqiya and Baqa al-Gharbiya."
The Palestinians rejected the proposal.
"This is sheer insolence. At one time Israel's Arabs were viewed as merchandise that could be transferred and exchanged, but there is no room for such things today," Moasi said. "We will continue living here despite opposition from racists."
Baqa al-Gharbiya (Photo: George Ginsburg)
Imad Abu-Moch, a Baqa al-Gharbiya resident whose home is located about 66 feet from the West Bank security barrier, said "Our forefathers were born here, and we will remain here. We will continue living in this country in the current state, even though it is not very good."
Most of the residents deem Livni's proposal racist. "No one has the right to tell us where to live," Abu-Moch added, while Anes Ganayim said the secret memos "prove that all Israeli politicians have the same viewpoints. Livni lies when she claims to be against the extreme right."
However, some villagers are in favor of transferring Baqa al-Gharbiya to Palestinian control. "This way we could live in a Muslim state rather than a Jewish one. We live (in Israel) without any rights. In the Palestinian territories there are signs of social and economic improvement, and it'll be easier for us to live there," one resident said. "Also, the expenses – electricity, taxes, phone bills – won't be as high there."
Barta'a resident Rami Qabha also said it makes sense to transfer Arab villages situated along the Green Line to the control of a future Palestinian state. "There is nothing racist about Livni's proposal," he said, "It would be a good thing for Israeli-Arabs to unite with the Palestinians, and it would give us the opportunity to work in the territories."
But Abd el-Karim Qabha, who owns a Shawarma stand in Barta'a, is against the idea. "If I move to the Palestinian side (of the West Bank barrier) my livelihood would suffer. This proposal is indicative of the racism and discrimination against the Arabs. I refuse to leave my home and business and will fight for them until the very end."
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