Israeli Right-wing Party Wants to Pay Palestinians to Leave Israel

The campaign to be launched by the National Union-Tkuma party includes dismantling the Palestinian Authority and expanding Israeli sovereignty over the entire West Bank

MK Bezalel Smotrich at the Haaretz Peace conference in Tel Aviv on June 12, 2017.
MK Bezalel Smotrich at the Haaretz Peace conference in Tel Aviv on June 12, 2017. Tomer Appelbaum

A right-wing Israeli party will launch a new campaign promoting a plan to pay Palestinians to leave the West Bank and move to an Arab country.

The National Union-Tkuma party, which has run for the Knesset on the Habayit Hayehudi slate, will be funding the internet campaign to promote a diplomatic plan proposed by Bezalel Smotrich, a lawmaker from that faction, that includes compensation paid to Palestinians who agree to move.

Smotrich, who has worked on the plan for a considerable time, said it does not involve the forced transfer of Palestinians.

“Even now, 20,000 Palestinians a year are leaving Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], and surveys that they themselves conduct show that 30 percent hope to emigrate abroad. I will help them, fairly and with full monetary compensation and not by force. It will be cheaper than the wars and military operations every few years,” Smotrich explained.

As part of his plan, Smotrich is proposing that the Palestinian Authority be dismantled, that Israeli sovereignty be applied throughout the West Bank and that the Jewish population of the region be doubled. The goal would ultimately be “to erase the paradigm of an independent Palestinian state from public consciousness and from reality.”

“It is not despair that drives terrorism,” Smotrich said, “but rather hope, the main expression of which is a Palestinian state. I intend to eliminate this.” According to Smotrich’s plan, the Arabs of the West Bank would be granted citizenship if they forgo their national aspirations in Israel, but they would also have the right to vote for Knesset representatives only if they serve in the Israeli army, as members of Israel’s Druze community do.

Smotrich developed the plan on his own but managed to convince the National Union-Tkuma to invest funds in promoting it. The director general of the party, Ofir Sofer, refused to say how much money was involved, but a party source said it was about 100,000 shekels ($28,000), for advertising and internet marketing.

A meeting of the Tkuma-National Union party conference will be convened on Tuesday to consider whether to adopt the plan as official party policy. On Wednesday, Smotrich met with members of the party conference to lobby them to support the plan.

National Union party chairman Uri Ariel, who is the agriculture minister and a Knesset member, has still not stated his position on the issue, and his spokesman did not respond to inquiries from Haaretz. Party sources said, however, that Ariel isn’t enamored with Smotrich’s activism but has no choice but to cooperate with him because he has taken control of the party. If elections were held today for National Union party chairman, Smotrich would be Ariel, the sources added.

Officials in Habayit Hayehudi are also not thrilled about Smotrich’s campaign to promote his plan, but officially Habayit Hayehudi would only state that the party’s position is what is contained in its official platform.