Israel has suggested to the United States a plan to transfer to the Palestinian Authority (PA) areas with a dense Arab population currently inside Israel, reports Maariv-NRG. Specifically, the offer relates to the area known as the Triangle in east-central Israel, including the cities of Tayibe and Tira, in which about 300,000 Arabs live.
In return for the area ceded, Israel will get to keep settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria. Two Israeli sources confirmed the report to Maariv-NRG, and said that it would help maintain Israel's Jewish character.
A senior source was quoted as saying that the idea came up recently, as Americans stepped up their efforts to craft an agreement between Israel and the PA. “Many senior figures in Israelis support a land and population swap, and the Americans know this is a possible solution,” he said, adding that the idea seem to be gaining ground in the Americans' minds.
The newspaper notes, however, that the idea of a land swap is based on the 1949 armistice lines as a starting point for redrawing the map, and that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyhau is not willing to go back to these lines. It adds that he does not intend to cede to the PA territory equal in size to what Israel will keep in Judea and Samaria.
Parts of Jerusalem are also to be ceded to the PA, acccording to this plan.
One of the sources added that if the Israeli offer is accepted, the Arab population inside Israel will shrink to just 12% of the total population, as opposed to about 20% at present.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has been promoting this idea since 2004, as part of his proposal for solving the conflict of the Land of Israel. Liberman has been raising the idea in his meetings with Americans and Europeans. However, Israel has not submitted an official proposal in the matter.
Secretary of State John Kerry begins 2014 with a trip to the Middle East on Wednesday, bringing along his hoping to set out an agreed framework that will establish a vision of what a final peace deal would look like.
It would provide "a basis upon which one could negotiate the final peace treaty because the outlines or the guidelines for what the final deal would look like would be agreed upon, and then you would work intensively to fill out the details," an official told AFP.