'Livni Proposed Moving Several Israeli Arab Towns to Palestinian Side of Border'

Proposal was made during Tzipi Livni's tenure as foreign minister in April and June of 2008; sources say Palestinians rejected proposal during negotiations.

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Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

As foreign minister in April and June 2008, Tzipi Livni raised the possibility of territorial exchange during negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Specifically, she proposed transferring the Israeli Arab border communities of Barta'a, Baka al-Garbiyeh, and Beit Safafa to the Palestinian state.

Mahmoud Abbas and Tzipi Livni in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in 2008. Credit: AFP

Details of the proposals were revealed on Monday in documents leaked to the Qatar-based satellite television network Al Jazeera and to the British daily, The Guardian.

Sources involved in the negotiations with the Palestinians said on Monday that this was one of dozens of ideas that were raised during talks with the Palestinians, and that after the Palestinians rejected the proposal the Israeli side did not raise it again.

"In all the talks Livni stressed that Arab Israelis are entitled to full equality of rights," the sources said.

When she served as foreign minister and as head of the Israeli negotiating team, Livni commented on a number of occasions on the status of Arab Israelis in the event that a Palestinian state was established. She argued that the Palestinian state must be the answer to the national ambitions of the Palestinians, as Israel is for the national ambitions of Jews.

In a number of speeches in 2008 she stressed that if Arab Israelis seek to realize their national ambitions as Palestinians, they could do so in a Palestinian state.

The documents published on Monday show that the matter was first raised in a meeting between Livni and Ahmed Qureia held at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem on April 8, 2008.

"Let us be fair. You referred to 1967 line. We have not talked about Jerusalem yet. There are some Palestinian villages that are located on both sides of the 1967 line about which we need to have an answer, such as Beit Safafa, Barta'a, and Baka al-Garbiyeh. There are also some settlements that were built behind 1967 line but expanded inside 1967 line illegally, such as Uranit settlement south of Hebron," she is quoted as saying in the Palestinian document.

There was no response from the Palestinian side.

Livni raised the issue again at a second meeting at the same hotel, on June 21, 2008.

Livni: "Two issues related to the borders. When you talk about the line of 1967, there were some Palestinian villages separated by 1967. I visited an Israeli Palestinian village on Friday - in Wadi Ara." Qureia: "What were you doing there? Campaigning?"

Livni: "There are 12,000 Palestinian members of Kadima ... I said from the beginning that it can be part of the swaps."

Qureia: "Absolutely not."

Livni: "We have this problem with Ghajar in Lebanon. [United Nations envoy] Terje Larsen put the blue line to cut the village in two. We decided not to cut the village [after the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000]. It was a mistake. The problem now ... those living on Lebanese soil are Israeli citizens."

Qureia: "This will be difficult. All Arabs in Israel will be against us."

The documents also reveal unprecedented statements by Abbas on the Palestinian refugees issue. In a March 2009 meeting, Abbas said that during a meeting with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert there was some agreement on the number of refugees that would return to Israel, but that most would return to the Palestinian state.

On the issue of refugees, Abbas said that "it would be unreasonable to expect Israel to absorb five or even one million refugees. This would be the end of the State of Israel."



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