Israeli foreign minister: Redraw map to oust Arabs

Israeli foreign minister: Redraw map to oust Arabs

JERUSALEM - The Associated Press
Israeli foreign minister: Redraw map to oust Arabs

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman talks to the press before the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 8, 2012. AFP Photo

Israel's foreign minister said Monday that some Israeli Arabs should be stripped of their citizenship and placed under Palestinian sovereignty as part of any final peace deal.

Avigdor Lieberman made the comments before a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators later Monday in Jordan their second session in a week after a 15-month breakdown in talks.

Speaking to reporters at parliament, Lieberman reiterated his stance that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to involve redrawing Israel's borders to put some Arab communities under Palestinian sovereignty. In return, Israel would receive West Bank territory.

"Any future agreement with the Palestinians must address the matter of Israeli Arabs in the formula of territory and population exchanges," Lieberman said. "Any other arrangement is simply collective suicide. This has to be clear and I think it is time to say these things out loud." Lieberman has pushed a series of legislative proposals that critics say are anti-Arab, including a failed attempt to require Israelis to sign a loyalty oath or have their citizenship revoked.

About one-fifth of Israel's 7.8 million population is Arab. Israeli Arabs are citizens, in contrast with their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But they often suffer discrimination in Israel and frequently identify with the Palestinian cause.

Arabs accuse Lieberman of racism.

The last round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in September 2010 over the issue of construction in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians for their state.

The Palestinians demand a halt to settlement construction and say they will not resume formal negotiations while Israel continues to build in the two areas. They also say Israel must commit to withdrawing to its 1967 prewar lines as the basis of a future border. Israel says direct talks should resume without preconditions.

The talks in Jordan are aimed at reaching arrangements for the resumption of full-fledged peace talks.
The meeting, hosted by Jordan, is being held under the auspices of the Quartet of Mideast mediators. The Quartet, consisting of the U.S., European Union, Russia and the United Nations, hopes to broker a final peace agreement by the end of 2012.

Lieberman said Israel remains committed to peace talks and accused the Palestinians of negotiating in bad faith.

"It is clear that the Palestinians came to these talks against their will and only did so because they couldn't say no to the king of Jordan," he said. "Unfortunately, the Palestinians are working to internationalize the conflict and to try and escape direct negotiations."