Last week, US President Obama, in his now infamous '67 Borders' speech called directly for using the '67 borders with mutually agreed land swaps in exchange for the large Israeli settlement blocks in the disputed territories. Outrage broke out on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide.
I was not even sure if 'land swaps' in principle had even been accepted by the Palestinians and decided to search. The most recent articles mentioning Palestinian leadership accepting of the principles of mutually agreed land swaps came from the Jerusalem Post, circa May 22, 2010
Palestinians and Israel disagree on the extent of territories to be exchanged, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday afternoon.And this May 23, 2010 piece (Jerusalem Post)
Following repeated publication of Palestinian openness to discussing a territorial exchange of about 4 percent, twice the 2% discussed in negotiations with Olmert’s government, Abbas reiterates the Palestinian Authority’s agreement to the principle of some land-trade at a 1:1 ratio, but stresses that “We did not agree about the land area, but we agreed on the principle of swapping land (equal) in quality and value.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that the Palestinians and Israel have agreed on the principle of a land swap, but denied that the two sides had reached any further agreement in this regard.
The issue of the ratio of land Israel would give to the Palestinians in exchange for keeping settlement blocs has long been an issue of dispute, with the Palestinians demanding that the ratio be 1:1, and Israel offering less.
Then there is rather good short piece from The Forward on the land swap issue which suggests the Palestinians will only accept an acre per acre swap and the land exchanged must be of 'good' quality which rather suggests that a corridor cut through the Negev linking the West Bank to the Gaza Strip is out of the question – so far.
So what's left? An Israeli friend of mine suggested the only alternative to a Negev swap was the large Arab blocks within the borders of pre-June 1967 Israel such as predominantly Arab areas such as Umm al-Fahm and even Nazareth – he was quite excited about the prospect of losing Nazareth. In other words, adopting the Yisrael Beiteinu plan.
For years, the Palestinian Authority has been actively cultivating the concept of 'Palestinian' ethnicity within the Arab identity of Israel and the most recent manifestation of the success of these rather new phenomenon is Amzi Bishara, an Israeli Knesset member who is alleged to have actively colluded with Hezbollah during the Israeli-Lebanon conflict of 2006, and MK member Haneen Zoabi. She openly claims to be 'Palestinian' and refuses to stand and remain in the Knesset for the playing of HaTikvah, the national anthem of Israel. I am actually far more sympathetic to her refusal...since I actually know what the words in Hebrew mean and cannot imagine her singing about the longing of her Jewish soul - and meaning it. Now there are a great many things wrong about MK Zoabi, nonetheless of which is her 'truth' issues and her actively colluding against the interests of the Israeli state being just two examples of her perfidy.
Since the Palestinians demand their 'state' be ethnically cleaned of Jews and the Palestinian leadership wants 'quality' land, and the Arab minority in Israel now actively seeks to align themselves 'ethnically' within Palestinian niche rather than with the larger Arab community; it does make sense to put the large Arab communities within Israel on the negotiating table with the Palestinian Authority. In fact, this minority in Israel want to impose their will on the majority and wipe out the Jewish character of the Israeli state; if this report from the Moshe Dayan Centre is at all creditable. So why not swap them for the Jewish settlements in the disputed territories?
If the two state solution is to be shoved down the collective Jewish throat; why not swap the Jewish settlements for Arab Palestinian ones? I realize it is the Lieberman Yisrael Beiteinu solution and no doubt there will be cries of racism thrown at anyone who suggests it, but realistically, what else is there which will meet the needs of the Israelis and satisfy the demands of the Palestinians?
Furthermore, if the the Arab communities within Israel on the table as 'land swaps' with the Palestinian Authority the Israeli Arabs will not be thrown out of their homes nor will they be left without benefit of a citizenship. The Palestinian Authority gets land and a native population whose infrastructure has already been built, and consequently, has no needs to be met as in the case of refugee populations. Israel loses its potential fifth column and gains control over the Jewish settlements in the disputed territories. If the two state solution is to be saved; this is the only realistic option.
Of course, the real irony of this my blogging this issue; is that I never have supported the establishment of another Palestinian state.