The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has written to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking he make clear his government has not discussed the transfer of Israeli Arab citizens to the Palestinian Authority as part of a peace agreement, and that the government will not bring the subject up in the future.
ACRI's move follows an Israel Prisons Service drill last week that had wardens practicing dealing with numerous Israeli Arabs being detained after a wave of riots. According to Israel Radio, the "riots" supposedly broke out as a result of a peace agreement including a population transfer between Israel and the PA.
"The holding of such a drill testifies to the fact that thoughts of transfer, called by such names as the exchange of territories or the exchange of populations, are not merely an election slogan or the personal fantasy of certain politicians and ministers but a subject for discussion on the agenda of the government and of those who are behind holding the exercise in this form," wrote attorney Awni Banna, who heads the association's department for Arab minority rights.
Banna said the very fact that the drill was held was problematic. It sent the public the message that for the government transferring Arab citizens appears to be a reasonable and possible scenario.
"Granting approval, whether directly or by implication, as part of an initiated plan or in silent agreement, to plans of transfer, is dangerous and will quickly lead to dark places, Banna wrote. "That is the reason we are approaching you and demanding an immediate and unambiguous clarification to the effect that there is, and will not be, any plan or discussion of this topic in the government or in any of its organs."
The drill also involved exercises dealing with the possible arrest of dozens of detainees in the thwarting of attempts to send flotillas to the Gaza Strip. In May this year, dozens of activists arrested on the Mavi Marmara, which tried to break the blockade on Gaza, were taken to the Ella detention facility in Be'er Sheva. An Israel Prisons Service source said events of this kind pose an administrative and organizational challenge for the service.
"We are talking mainly about a professional exercise to see how, in terms of registration, we have to get ready for a number of people of this magnitude, how we can be sure we have identified them and put them in orderly fashion on the vehicles of the Nahshon unit that transports detainees and how we can check that everyone has received food and has been properly taken in," the source said.
An IPS spokesman said this was an annual drill of several types of scenarios, and that the wardens "practiced scenarios in which missiles fell on two prisons, there were riots in the prisons, prisoners escaped, a facility was attacked from the outside, large numbers of detainees had to be absorbed from the police or the army, members of the staff were taken captive and so forth." He said the Home Front Command, the police, Magen David Adom emergency service and firefighters also participated in the exercise.
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