Israel rejects Trump’s idea of redrawing borders, moving Arab towns to Palestine
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Israel rejects Trump’s idea of redrawing borders, moving Arab towns to Palestine

Netanyahu officials tell TV news the proposal in US peace plan is not viable; right-wing ministers said vowing to oppose any mention of Palestinian state in cabinet vote on deal

Arab Israelis take part in a rally to express their opposition to the US-brokered proposal for a settlement of the Middle East conflict, in the Arab-Israeli town of Baqa al-Gharbiya in northern Israel on February 1, 2020. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
Arab Israelis take part in a rally to express their opposition to the US-brokered proposal for a settlement of the Middle East conflict, in the Arab-Israeli town of Baqa al-Gharbiya in northern Israel on February 1, 2020. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

Senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said that even if a Palestinian state is established under the Trump peace plan there will not be a redrawing of Israel’s borders to see Arab towns in the so-called Triangle area included in the future Palestine, Channel 12 television news reported Sunday.

The Triangle is an area southeast of Haifa, near the Palestinian city of Jenin, which includes 14 towns and villages where more than 260,000 Arab Israelis live. Residents of those ares have protested against the idea that they may one day be redefined as living in a new Palestine state.

Officials in the PMO told the network the idea — mentioned in the Trump plan as a possibility — is unrealistic because it requires agreement by all sides, which is currently lacking even on much more straightforward aspects of the plan.

The officials, who were not identified in the report, said the citizenship transfer is not critical for the Trump plan and was only included because US researchers had conducted a survey that found the notion was popular in Israel, presumably among the Jewish population. Another reason for its inclusion, the officials speculated, was to win support from hawkish Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman who has long advocated for such adjustments in any peace deal with the Palestinians.

Joint List MKs lead a protest against US President Donald Trump’s peace plan in Baqa al-Gharbiya on February 1, 2020. (Courtesy)

US President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited peace plan last week in Washington. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who stood alongside Trump in the White House during the roll-out, immediately indicated his support for the plan, but the Palestinian leadership emphatically rejected the proposal.

While the plan contains many aspects that appeal to the right of Israeli politics — in particular the extension of Israeli sovereignty to Israel’s West Bank settlements, and the maintenance of Israeli security control everywhere to the west of the Jordan border — it also lays the path for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

On Saturday, Channel 12 reported that Netanyahu is planning on bringing the plan before the cabinet soon for a symbolic vote. The measure would be strictly declarative in nature, but Netanyahu is reportedly hoping to use the government’s approval to convince Washington to green-light a measure of limited annexation in the West Bank before the election — a move the White House is resisting.

On Sunday, Channel 12 reported that several ministers from Netanyahu’s Likud party as well as the Yamina alliance of right-wing parties have vowed that they will oppose the Trump plan, voting against it even in a symbolic vote, if it includes any mention of a Palestinian state.

The report did not cite sources or name the ministers in question.

Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh responded to the Channel 12 report by tweeting “Netanyahu was worried that the transfer clause will encourage [Arab] voters [to go to the polls] so he gave in.”

“He is again proving that nothing scares him more than the Arabs in the voting booth,” Odeh wrote. Netanyahu has been accused in the past of trying to repress the Arab vote through scare tactics.

On Saturday, hundreds of Arab Israelis demonstrated in northern Israel against the so-called transfer clause in the the US peace plan.

Joint List MKs lead a protest against US President Donald Trump’s peace plan in Baqa al-Gharbiya on February 1, 2020. (Courtesy)

The peace plan said it “contemplates the possibility, subject to agreement of the parties, that the borders of Israel will be redrawn such that the Triangle communities become part of the State of Palestine.”

“These communities, which largely self-identify as Palestinian, were originally designated to fall under Jordanian control during the negotiations of the Armistice Line of 1949, but ultimately were retained by Israel for military reasons that have since been mitigated,” the proposal said.

The Trump suggestion does not advocate the physical relocation of Triangle residents. Instead, it would change the status of their communities, making them a Palestinian enclave, cut off from the neighboring West Bank by an Israeli barrier erected during the bloody Second Intifada in the early 2000s.

Locals fear that as citizens of a Palestinian state they would lose the benefits of Israel’s thriving economy, its health and welfare system, and the freedom to enter Israel, where many of their relatives have lived since before the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.

On Saturday, Liberman praised the Trump plan’s Triangle proposition, saying he was thrilled that the White House was prepared to adopt a policy he has long touted.

Joint List chair MK Ayman Odeh speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on November 18, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Trump’s plan grants Israel much of what it has sought in decades of international diplomacy, namely control over Jerusalem as its “undivided” capital, rather than a city to share with the Palestinians, who would have the capital of their future state in a suburb of the city — without the coveted Old City and surrounding neighborhoods. The plan also rules out the return of Palestinian refugees to Israeli territory and envisions all West Bank settlements coming under full Israeli sovereignty.

On Saturday the 22-member Arab League of Nations unanimously rejected the Trump plan, saying it was unfair to the Palestinians.

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