A couple of weeks ago there was a flurry of talk about the so-called ‘Peres plan’, in which Israel would turn most of the West Bank over to the Palestinians, while keeping some of the areas with heavy Jewish populations. In return, Israel would transfer some territory within the 1967 borders that is inhabited mostly by Arabs, so that the Palestinians would receive an area equal to 100% of the West Bank.
I criticized the plan on multiple grounds, and I was particularly irritated by the implicit assumption that all of the land of the West Bank was ‘Palestinian’, and they needed to be compensated for any of it that Israel keeps.
I also pointed out that neither the Palestinian factions nor the Israeli Arabs would ever agree to such a trade. The reasons are multiple:
- The Israeli Arabs do not want to give up the benefits they receive from being Israeli citizens, despite the fact that they would like to change the nature of the state from a Jewish one to a ‘state of all its citizens’ (incidentally including a right of return for descendents of Arab refugees, thus creating a Palestinian state for themselves).
- The Palestinian factions, both Fatah and Hamas, I said, do not want a populated area exchange because they want the Israeli Arabs to stay right where they are, so they can act as a fifth column — both politically, and — in the event of regional war — militarily.
- Both Fatah and Hamas have said that they would accept 100% of the territories for a Palestinian state; Fatah for a ‘peace’ treaty and Hamas for a hudna (extended truce). But both have made no secret of their ultimate goal, which is a Palestinian state in place of Israel. As a result, the “2-state solution” they are looking for is not the one that has the most promise of peace, but the one which hurts Israel the most. So they are not prepared, at this stage, to accept anything less than full withdrawal from the territories, and to gleefully observe the bulldozing of settlements and the civil strife among Israelis that would accompany it.
Now Mahmoud Abbas has confirmed this analysis:
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas opposes the idea of population exchanges of settlers and Israeli Arabs as part of a peace accord with Israel, Abbas said in a meeting on Saturday with Hadash MK Mohammed Barakeh.
Abbas said his goal was a Palestinian state in the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip with east Jerusalem as its capital. He said population exchange was an idea Israel had raised in the past, but that he had always turned it down.
Barakeh, who represents Israeli Arabs, thanked Abbas and said that “Arab citizens in Israel are not Israeli real estate that can be negotiated as the spoils of occupation.” — Jerusalem Post