Amid violent protests following a police killing of an Arab man in northern Israel, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday that Arab residents of northern Israel should not remain citizens of Israel if an agreement is reached on a Palestinian state.
“The people in the Triangle must understand that if there is an agreement, they will not be citizens of the State of Israel,” he said, referring to the cluster of Arab towns in northern Israel abutting the Green Line. “You can’t benefit from the National Insurance Institute, convalescence and unemployment pay while raving and inciting against the state. I think that today this is clear — they must be on the other side of the border.”
Liberman clarified that he did not mean that residents should be forcibly “transferred,” but that a future Palestinian state should include the approximately 300,000 Israeli Arabs living in the Triangle.
“They will stay in their homes, on their land, [but] we will move the border, and the Palestinian Authority will take control of the Triangle.”
Liberman was reiterating his plan for swapping Israeli territory with an Arab majority for West Bank settlement blocs in a future deal with the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, protests in northern Israel continued Monday morning, as 2,000 people, many waving Palestinian flags, gathered in the town of Sakhnin, just north of Kafr Kanna, the town where a 22-year-old Arab man was shot and killed by police Saturday, sparking demonstrations across the region.
One student at the protest told Channel 2 that the demonstrators planned to protest peacefully against police misconduct.
“It is our right to express anger at the conduct of the police,” the student said.
A protest in Kafr Kanna was scheduled to be held at noon Monday.
Monday’s protests came in the wake of days of rioting and violence in northern Israel’s Arab towns.
Police said Monday morning that they were investigating an incident in which a suspect threw a pipe bomb at security forces operating near the town of Zichron Ya’akov late Sunday night. No injuries were reported, and a bomb squad disposed of the homemade explosive device.
Haifa police were also investigating reports that a petrol bomb was lobbed over the fence of a religious school in the city.
There were soot marks at the site, according to Israeli news outlet Ynet, but no reports of injuries or damage.
An official in the Sakhnin municipality warned that the situation would not improve unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adequately addressed the situation.
“For now, the events in the Arab sector are under control, but it seems that if the prime minister does not take responsibility and talk to Arab residents as equal citizens, then the winds will not die down,” the unnamed official told Channel 2. “Anybody who wants to take advantage of this situation and others as a springboard for the upcoming elections — it will not come at the expense of the Arab sector.”
However, the foreign minister charged that “it is clear that there are people that are inciting and agitating” the tensions.
“We need to act against decisively against the agitators and law-breakers,” he added.
A video that emerged of Saturday’s shooting showed the man, Kheir Hamdan, attacking a police cruiser with a knife, and then being shot as he appears to back off.
The officer who fired the fatal bullet — the only shot fired in the incident — told investigators that he believed his colleagues’ lives to be in danger, and that he shot to wound but not to kill, Channel 2 reported Sunday. He was the driver of the patrol car, and had gone to Kafr Kanna with three colleagues.
All four policemen are under investigation, but none has been suspended, and all will be reassigned Monday to what the TV report called “less fraught” areas of the country.
Liberman backed the policeman who fired the lethal shot, calling him a “righteous man” and asserting that “we’ve seen the pictures, and we’ve seen incidents in the past in which police officers did not act decisively and paid with their lives.”
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch joined Liberman in supporting the police.
“I give full backing and confidence to police who acted in self-defense and neutralized the threat,” he said.
Aharonovitch added, however, that the matter had been transferred to the Justice Ministry’s internal investigation department for an in-depth investigation into the conduct of the officers in the incident.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.