'Israel Cannot Get Rid of Israeli Citizens'
Finance Minister Yair Lapid attacked Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman's land swap plan Tuesday, stating that "Israel cannot get rid of Israeli citizens."
"We keep expecting that an agreement [between Israel and the Palestinian Authority] would bring about a total change in Israel's relationship with the world, which has been steadily deteriorating over the past several years," Lapid explained. "[The land swap] would mean giving up on improving the relationship, and I do not want that."
The swap, which Israel reportedly offered the US in talks last week, refers 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. Israeli Arabs in those areas would become citizens of a Palestinian state, according to the proposal.
In return for the area ceded, Israel will get to keep settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria.
Regarding the talks themselves, Lapid emphasized that the political process is critical for Israel's future. "Here there is a real process that should be taken seriously," Lapid claimed. "We want to separate ourselves from the Palestinians, because the situation today threatens Israel as a Jewish state."
"Separation from the Palestinians will change us as a nation, as individuals and as a collective, and therefore we must take the process seriously," he claimed.
Lapid's remarks resemble similar statements by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who spoke at the Hebrew University Monday.
"We could make peace right now and have both a Jewish, Zionist state and a Palestinian state," Olmert claimed. "There is nothing that could change our lives more than the existence or absence of a peace agreement with the Palestinians in the near future."