Land/population swap idea is a non-starter

News item:

Israel has raised the idea of transferring parts of the territory in “the triangle” southeast of Haifa — along with the hundreds of thousands of Israeli-Arab citizens who live there — to a future Palestinian state in return for annexing West Bank territory including settlement blocs, Maariv reported on Wednesday. …

The idea is aimed at addressing two central issues in a possible peace agreement: first, land swaps between Israel and a Palestinian state that would enable Israel to expand its sovereignty to encompass major West Bank settlements, while compensating the Palestinians with territory that is currently part of sovereign Israel; and second, preserving Israel’s Jewish majority. …

There are currently around 1.6 million Israeli Arabs in the country and Maariv estimated that transferring 300,000 of those residents to a Palestinian state would leave Israel’s Arab population at around 12%.

By drawing on land from the triangle, where two of Israel’s largest Arab towns, Tayibe and Umm al-Fahm are located, Israel would be able to offer the Palestinians more territorial compensation in order to annex more West Bank settlement areas, the report said.

This idea has been around for a long time. Avigdor Lieberman was pushing it in 2010. It makes sense to someone who wants to find a compromise solution that will reduce conflict between Israel and a future Arab state.

There are, however, several reasons that it is a waste of time to talk about it.

The first is that the Arab citizens of Israel aren’t insane. There is no way they want to trade the freedom, healthcare, education and economy of the Jewish state to join up with another corrupt, kleptocratic, backward, totalitarian Arab state. This is the case even if they talk like Palestinian nationalists.

The second is that it directly contradicts Palestinian goals. They do not want to reduce the number of Arabs in Israel, even if they are the relatively moderate ‘Israeli Arabs’, they want to increase it.  There is no shortage of Arabs who claim to be ‘Palestinian’ — by their figures, there are about 11 million ‘Palestinians’ in the world, all of whom supposedly have a right to live in what we call ‘Israel’!

There is another reason. The Arabs believe that they are the true ‘owners’ of the land, all of it between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. Listen to MK Haneen Zouabi:

… I do not represent the State of Israel or speak in its name, but rather in the name of the [Palestinian] struggle, which does not in any way recognize Israel as a Jewish state. [I speak] in the name of a struggle that is performing a role precisely opposed to that of the Israeli Knesset, from the [Knesset’s] standpoint…

… Our platform [of the Balad party] is based on the demands for national and civil equality, for recognition as owners of this homeland, and for the Jewish state to become a state for all of its citizens. This is the compass that directs our political action… Since we define ourselves first and foremost as Palestinians who are owners of the homeland, we view it as part of our platform to defend the right of our people to put an end to the occupation. [This] is not limited to the ’48 territories, but applies to the historical borders of our people. Therefore, our platform includes [supporting] the return of the Palestinian refugees, defeating the occupation, dismantling the settlements, and [securing] East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state. [my emphasis]

Arabs like Zouabi are infuriated by the idea of land swaps, because it would exclude them from part of their ‘patrimony’ and keep it for Jews. They are opposed to partition, except as a temporary solution on the road to a unified Arab ‘Palestine’. The only acceptable Jewish state for them is no Jewish state.

There is a fundamental asymmetry of objectives in the negotiations between Israel and the Arabs. Israel wants to end the conflict and is willing to give up much (way too much, in my opinion) in order to move toward a solution. The Arabs want to kick the Jews out of the territories, pump hostile ‘refugees’ into Israel, and replace the Jewish state with an Arab one.

It illustrates the asymmetry to note that the Arabs — and the US — expect that an agreement would result in the expulsion of tens or hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes (indeed, the Arabs want to maximize the number). But the idea of changing the status of Arabs, who would remain in their homes and on their land, will not be on the table.

Where is the US in this? The administration cares about one and only one thing: reversing the outcome of the 1967 war. Anything that will bring this about is fine with a regime, which — this is the only possible interpretation of its proposals and Middle East policy in general short of idiocy — could not care less about the continued existence of a Jewish state.

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3 Responses to “Land/population swap idea is a non-starter”

  1. Olgordo says:

    I don’t understand how Zouabi, an Arab who openly declares his committment to the destruction of Israel, can be permitted to retain his seat in the Knesset or even to remain an Israeli citizen. He and his Balad party are self-declared traitors.

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Zouabi is a ‘she’ and lots of people share your view. Here is what I wrote about her a while ago:
    Haneen Zouabi should be banned like Meir Kahane

  3. Shalom Freedman says:

    I don’t believe the ‘will’ of the Arab citizens of Israel should be the decisive factor.
    The decisive factor should be what is good for Israel.
    I am not sure how vital the territory of the Little Triangle is to Israel. I had the impression that it is vital area connecting parts of the country.
    But it would be valuable to increase the size of the Jewish majority.
    However as you indicate there is no real chance that the Arabs will agree to this. You rightly point out that their real aim is our disappearance.