Arabs in Israeli border towns fear Trump plan will transfer them to WB
BAQA AL-GHARBIYYE, Israel: Thousands of Israeli Arabs, many waving Palestinian flags, demonstrated in this town in Israel at the weekend to voice their fear that U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan could see them stripped of their rights as Israeli citizens.
Trump’s proposal, disclosed last week, would see Israel keep its settlements in the occupied West Bank (WB).
But it also raised the possibility that 11 Arab border towns abutting the West Bank would become part of a new Palestinian state – alarming Israel’s 21 percent Arab minority.
“Israel wants to get rid of these people – their land, their history and their space,” said Mohammed Barakeh, a protester and former Arab member of Israel’s parliament.
Like their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza, Arabs in Israel have criticized Trump’s plan, which suggested what it billed as a “two-state” solution for the decades-long conflict.
Critics say that by handing Jewish settlements in occupied territory to Israel and keeping Palestinians under Israeli security control, a viable independent state is impossible.
On Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the land swap idea, saying: “We do not agree at all, in any way, to swap land and residents from Israel to (Palestine)”.
Israel’s Arabs – predominantly Muslims, Christian and Druze – are mostly the descendants of the Palestinians who remained in their homes or were internally displaced following the 1948 war that surrounded Israel’s creation.
Many identify as Palestinians and regularly voice solidarity with those in Gaza and the West Bank.
But they fear losing their rights and ties to the land they have lived on for generations if they are moved from Israel to Palestinian rule in the West Bank.
Ayman Odeh, who heads a coalition of mainly Arab parties in Israel’s parliament, said Trump’s proposal was “a green light to revoke the citizenship of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arab citizens who live in northern Israel.”
Feelings also ran high at the weekend in Umm al-Fahm, a town on a hill that looks down into the West Bank across an Israeli military barrier that winds along its northern boundary. – Reuters