Lieberman and Kerry in Washington.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (right) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington in December. Photo by GPO
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Once again Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is undermining the already faltering peace talks with the Palestinians. Only a month ago at the Saban Forum in Washington, Lieberman said that he doesn’t believe that an agreement can be reached with the Palestinians, adding that to do so at this time would be like laying the foundations of a house in the midst of an earthquake. Speaking to diplomats in his office on Sunday, he changed his mind, praising U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposals.

Lieberman said that current American proposals were better than any raised by the international community. Still, the man who up until Sunday didn’t believe in the possibility of an agreement reiterated his old and ill-conceived conditions for a treaty: population and land swaps, calling these a “basic condition” for his support of any accord. "Without land and population swaps I won't support the agreement," said Lieberman, adding that the future border would run along Route 6, without Taibeh, Baka al-Garbiyeh, and Umm al-Fahm.

Thus, the Israeli foreign minister, who doesn’t even agree to the term "occupation" in reference to the West Bank (”to speak of occupation is not to understand the history of this region and the facts”), raised his proposal for a population swap with the sole objective of further damaging the peace process. While Kerry is doing his utmost to promote a deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority – his last visit was his tenth since his appointment – Lieberman is promoting an undemocratic proposal that is a total nonstarter.

Lieberman is trying to transform Israel into an even purer nation-state. He hopes to rid Israel of as many Israeli Arabs as possible, full-fledged citizens like himself, without so much as asking their opinion on the matter. The State of Israel has no right to remove citizens from its territory, or even to entertain the thought seriously.

The Foreign Minister’s proposal does not only endanger the peace talks, but aims to cause more strife and conflict in an already volatile society. Israeli Arab citizens will sense that the proposal views them as conditional, temporary citizens, here only until the day Lieberman can implement his plan. Such proposals only increase the sense of alienation among Israeli Arabs and deepen their sense that they don’t belong to their country. Therefore, this ill-conceived idea should be shelved immediately. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should renounce it publicly, the sooner the better.