Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday that he would not support any peace deal with the Palestinian Authority (PA) that does not include an exchange of land. “It is appropriate to talk about an issue that is not exactly politically correct,” he told Israeli media. “I am talking, of course, about the exchange of territory and populations.”
Lieberman, who is a key figure in the coalition cabinet governing Israel, said that by land exchange he means Al-Muthalath and Wadi Ara, both in the south-east of Haifa; most of the people living there are Palestinian Arabs with Israeli citizenship. He pointed out that those areas would be exchanged for settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank in any peace agreement.
Last week, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported unnamed sources saying that the so-called “Triangle” of Arab towns, home to around 300,000 Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, would be part of a future Palestinian state. The issue, it claimed, has come up several times during the ongoing peace talks.
According to Lieberman, the current Kerry peace plan is the best ever for Israel compared with previous EU and Arab plans. He refused to offer any hope that Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to their land. “I will not sign any agreement that includes any right of return into Israel, not even a single person,” he insisted.
On Sunday, Kerry visited Amman and Riyadh to shore up support for his proposed framework for peace. Unsurprisingly, he got the support he needed.
“I am grateful that the Arab League as a whole and Saudi Arabia individually, will be involved significantly in helping to build support for this effort,” Kerry said at Riyadh Airport prior to his departure. “Today his majesty [King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud] was not just encouraging but also supportive of our efforts in the hopes that we can be successful in the days ahead.”