Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has infuriated Palestinians and Israeli Arabs alike in suggesting that Arabs living in living in the Wadi Ara area, which borders the West Bank, should be exchanged for Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Although the offer is not one of the official conditions of the peace process, and was in fact criticized not only by Palestinians but also by Israeli government officials including President Shimon Peres, Lieberman nonetheless indicated his objection to the presence of Arabs in Israel.
Former Israeli Arab lawmaker Mohammed Baraka called the offer an "insidious racist designs against Israeli Arabs" and suggested that Lieberman was using the term ‘land swap’ as another way of calling for ethnic cleansing.
Israeli Arab leader Ahmad Tibi told Al Jazeera that the idea of swapping Israeli Arabs for Jewish settlements in the West Bank brought ‘dishonor’ to the community, saying "We have been living in these communities since time immemorial. Whoever dares compare us with these land thieves who live on a land that belongs to another people?"
Speaking on the proposed exchange of the Wadi Ara area, which borders the West Bank, for Jewish settlements, Tibi added "Israel has confiscated the bulk of these people's land. So, Lieberman would like to get rid of the people and keep their land."
Lieberman on his part lashed out at ‘Arab hypocrisy’, saying "The Arabs of Wadi Ara have suddenly become lovers of Zion."
Claiming that the Arabs of Wadi Ara waved the flags of Hamas and Hezbollah, Lieberman slammed them for refusing to become Palestinian citizens.
He also went on to express his opposition to Palestinian refugees who were forced to leave their homes when Israel was established in 1948 from returning despite UN resolution 194, which recognized the right of refugees to be repatriated.