Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday renewed his promotion of a controversial plan to transfer jurisdiction of some Arab Israeli towns to a future Palestinian state, pointing to the hundreds who participated in the Umm al-Fahm funeral of a terrorist shot dead as he tried to stab a policeman.
His comments came hours after several hundred people attended the early morning funeral of Ahmed Muhammad Mahameed in the northern Arab Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm.
Police said the large numbers who took part were a violation of an agreement with the family that it be a low-key ceremony.
“Are you are still asking yourselves why Umm al-Fahm needs to be in Palestine and not Israel?” Liberman tweeted. “The scenes yesterday of many hundreds of people participating in the funeral of the terrorist from their city with Palestinian flags, and chants that ‘with spirit and blood we will redeem you martyr,’ will finally answer the question. The plan that I published many years ago for an exchange of territory and populations is more relevant than ever.”
Mahameed was shot dead last week as he tried to stab an officer in the Old City of Jerusalem.
His body was returned to his family overnight Monday after an agreement was reached on the number of people who would take part in the funeral as well as the route and time of the procession.
Fireworks were lit in the town to mark the return of the body, and hundreds attended the funeral. During the procession participants chanted “in spirit and blood we will redeem you martyr.”
Redrawing Israel’s borders to exclude major Arab population centers that lie on the Israeli side of the Green Line has long been a major policy point for Liberman.
His plan calls for towns in the “triangle” region southeast of Haifa, including heavily populated Arab cities, to become part of a Palestinian state in any peace agreement in exchange for Jewish settlement areas of the West Bank coming under Israeli sovereignty.
The minister has said in the past that the Arab residents of the cities in question strongly identify with the Palestinian cause, including rejecting the right of Israel to exist and aligning themselves with those seeking to destroy the Jewish state.
The possibility of land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians has gained backing in the international community and Liberman has raised the issue with diplomats over the years, including during the Trump administration.