Mitchell Offers Swap of Israeli and Arab Population Centers
U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell sounded out the Palestinian Authority on a land swap that would allow Israel to retain large population centers in Judea and Samaria in return for the PA’s receiving land that includes Arab cities.
He broached the idea in his meeting Wednesday morning with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, according to the BBC. The PA has not confirmed or denied the report.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have been at loggerheads over the issue of the Jewish areas, where the president wants a halt to all construction. Israel has maintained that it cannot stop families from growing and prevent their children from marrying and needing homes of their own.
In addition, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that the Obama government will not honor a promise in a letter to Israel by former President George W. Bush that the large population centers would not be included in a future PA country.
The land swap idea originally was proposed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. Maaleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, Beitar Illit, Ariel and possible the Karnei-Ginot Shomron communities would be under Israeli sovereignty if the proposal were to be accepted.
In return, Israel would surrender to the proposed PA state areas with a concentration of Arabs, most probably the Triangle area between Netanya and Kfar Saba, and parts of the Galilee.
Surveys have shown that Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem, which the PA wants as its capital, are opposed to losing their Israeli citizenship, which provides them with financial benefits and services that the PA so far does not provide.
Arabs with Israeli citizenship in other areas enjoy Knesset representation, and it is also not certain that they will be anxious to become citizens of an unknown PA state instead.