A senior Israeli source close to the peace negotiations has told Maariv that Israel has proposed to the U.S. a population exchange with the Palestinian state that will not require a physical transfer.
The idea is to turn over the “Arab triangle,” where about 300 thousand Israeli Arabs live today in the eastern Sharon Valley (near Netanya), in return for the “block settlements” in Judea and Samaria, which include Gush Etzion, the Shchem area, Maale Adumim near Jerusalem and possibly the Hebron area. Such a swap would also most likely include the Jordan Valley.
The proposed swap would not include the “outposts,” which are more scattered and whose legal status is in dispute.
From the tone of the official speaking to Maariv, it appears that the idea could catch fire at this point in time, because it is far more likely to be embraced by a majority of Israeli Jews. It’s greatest claim to fame is the fact that it “only” removes 100 to 150 thousand settlers from their homes, a number which many Israelis could live with. This number has been bandied around by Science Minister Yaakov Perry in recent days, as the unavoidable “painful sacrifice” the Jewish state must endure for the sake of peace.
Kerry might be tempted to entertain this idea in public, even if he does not end up actually endorsing it, because it would appeal to the right wing in Israel as well as in the U.S. Fewer people get hurt, Israel is rid of part of a significant ethnic minority that can threaten the Jewish character of the state (Remember the ticking demographic bomb? It ain’t ticking so much, as Arab birthrate has been declining, but it still sounds good).
Last time this idea was contemplated, by current Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, it evoked a very negative, even angry response from the left, and from the Arab Israelis, who accused Lieberman of racism.
Hard to tell why physically uprooting Jews is not racism, but merely redrawing the border to the west of an area rather than its east is racist.
Of course, the main reason the Triangle Arabs hated this proposal, and no doubt will despise it again, is because they’re nobody’s fools: why move from a Western democracy to a third world PLO (and later Hamas) dictatorship?
Also, the 100 to 150 thousand settlers and their loved ones will not be enamoured with the expulsion part.
And, of course, the Palestinian negotiators will hate it because, to be fair, it kind of favors Israel, legitimizing upwards of half a million Jewish settlers, while at the same time helping it unload an ancient security problem—the Arab Tiriangle.
In my humble opinion, while I remain certain of the hopelessness of the Kerry effort, beginning to end, I must admit that this is just the kind of out of the box thinking that would boost the near-defunct 2-state solution.
Did you hug a released Palestinian terrorist today?