Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman published his own proposed peace plan Friday in which he calls for funding the emigration of Arab citizens of Israel.
In a manifesto of his Yisrael Beytenu party, Liberman said he favors ceding Arab-majority areas in northern Israel to a future Palestinian state and providing economic incentives for Arab-Israelis — about 20 percent of Israel’s population — who do not identify with the state to encourage them to leave the country, and make a future Palestinian state their home.
An offer to Israeli-Arabs “who feel part of the Palestinian people [to leave the country] will solve the problem of divided loyalties and ‘split personality’ they suffer from. They can decide if they are part of the state of Israel or Palestine.”
“Those who decide that they identify as Palestinian could give up their Israeli citizenship and become citizens of a future Palestinian state. The State of Israel should encourage this via a system of economic incentives,” the plan states.
The manifesto comes amid increasing signs of a coalition crisis and talk of elections. Once a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Liberman is seen as harboring prime ministerial ambitions himself.
“The conflict Israel faces is not just a territorial conflict with the Palestinians; rather it is a combined three-dimensional conflict: Arab countries, Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs. Therefore, any agreement with the Palestinians has to include peace agreements with the Arab states and population and territory exchanges with Israeli-Arabs,” reads the manifesto.
The plan does not set out positions on the most difficult issues in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, including the status of Jerusalem and Israel’s borders. But it does acknowledge the necessity of territorial compromise in reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians, and also with moderate Arab countries.
“The nation of Israel is more important than the land of Israel,” the paper quotes Liberman saying, explaining why he’s willing to give up land.
The foreign minister also touted an old party slogan — “No citizenship without loyalty” — which directly targets Israel’s Arab population and which calls for “rewarding” those who contribute to the state and applying punitive measures to those who don’t, including against Arab members of Knesset.
Liberman is expected to present the plan next week at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Basel, Switzerland, after which he will travel to America and present the plan at the annual Saban Forum.
The offer to pay Israeli Arabs to leave comes as Netanyahu pushes forward with a contentious parliamentary bill to formalize Israel’s status as a Jewish state — a measure that many Arab-Israelis say will institutionalize their status as second class citizens.
The bill, which Netanyahu says is necessary to safeguard Israel’s future, is opposed by a wide range of Israeli political figures, including President Reuven Rivlin and former president Shimon Peres, but is strongly supported by right-wing members of his ruling coalition, including Liberman.
Yossi Nachemi contributed to this report.