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September 18, 2010

Israel's Foreign Minister says Israeli Arabs Belong in Palestine

by Robert Berger

A senior Israeli official is ruffling feathers with a controversial proposal for the current peace talks with the Palestinians.  It targets Israel's Arab citizens.

Israel's hawkish Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has rejected the traditional formula of trading land for peace, which has defined the peace process for two decades.  

Speaking to reporters at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Lieberman said peace talks with the Palestinians should take a different approach, namely, an exchange of populations.  He believes that Israel should annex large Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, while Israeli Arab towns should become part of a future Palestinian state.  

Lieberman lashed out at Israeli Arab parliamentarians and Muslim clerics, whom he said have an anti-Zionist agenda.  He suggested that they should join the Palestinian parliament in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

An Arab member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, Jamal Zahalka, said Lieberman is a dangerous politician who poses a threat to Israeli democracy.

Zahalka told Israel Radio that the proposal to transfer the Israeli Arabs is racist and fascist.  He said the Arab citizens of Israel were born in the land and will remain here.

Lieberman heads the far right-wing Israel Beitenu Party and his proposal does not reflect the official position of the Israeli government.  But his ideas are striking a chord with a growing number of Israelis Jews who believe the Arab minority identifies with the Palestinians and is not loyal to the State of Israel.