Israel proposed "transfering" its Arabs: leaks

AFP , Tuesday 25 Jan 2011

Israel's Livni proposed the "transfer" of Arab-Israelis to a Palestinian state

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, 1 February 2009. (Reuters)

Israeli negotiators proposed the transfer of a number of Arab Israelis into a Palestinian state, a suggestion firmly rejected by Palestinian officials, leaked documents showed on Tuesday.

The topic was repeatedly raised at meetings in 2008 between former Palestinian premier Ahmed Qorei, who was chief negotiator at the time, and then Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who suggested some Arab Israelis should be moved into a new Palestinian state.

The discussions are contained in over 1,600 files detailing over a decade of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians that Al-Jazeera television began leaking on Sunday night.

The documents have already show the Palestinians offered huge concessions to Israel on the issues of refugees and Jerusalem, but new files show they stood firm on the transfer of Arab Israelis.

"The basis for the creation of the state of Israel is that it was created for the Jewish people. Your state will be the answer to all Palestinians including refugees," Livni told Qorei in January 2008.

Qorei firmly rejected the suggestion, which would affect residents of Arab villages which straddle the Green Line dividing Israel from the occupied West Bank.

Residents on the Israel side of the villages hold Israeli passports, pay taxes and generally consider themselves to be full citizens of the state.

Though they are citizens, they often face discrimination, and have endured periodic calls for their forcible transfer to a future Palestinian nation to protect Israel's character.

Both Arab Israelis and the Palestinians have rejected the idea.

"We'll never accept any change in the reality of the life of the Arabs living in Israel or their transfer," Qorei told Livni.

But Livni raised the issue again in April and June 2008 referring to a string of Arab-Israeli villages divided between Israel and the West Bank.

"Absolutely not," Qorei replied. "This will be difficult. All Arabs in Israel will be against us."

Last December, Livni publicly reaffirmed her stance that the national aspirations of Israel's Arabs "should be realised elsewhere" but told Israel's public radio there was "no question of carrying out a transfer or forcing them to leave."

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