Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday called the 10,000 Arab citizens of Israel who rallied in the country's north on Independence Day Tuesday, marking their “Nakba (Catastrophe) Day,” a "fifth column."
"Those who marched with flags of the Palestinian Authority (PA) demanding that it not give up on the right of return, are a fifth column whose aim is the destruction of Israel," Liberman told IDF Radio (Galei Tzahal).
The protest demand for "return" refers to the nearly 5 million descendants of Arabs who left Israel in 1948 at the establishment of the modern state of Israel, following the promises of the Arab armies to destroy the nascent Jewish state and settle them in its ruins.
Roughly 760,000 Arab residents left Israel at the founding of the state; in contrast 850,000 Jewish refugees were forced to flee Arab lands around the same time, losing their homes and wealth in the process. The plight of those Jewish refugees has received remarkably less international intention.
The demonstration took place in Kibbutz Lavi, where an Arab village called Lubya used to exist. The event was entitled, "Your 'independence' day is our 'Nakba'."
While Arabs living under the PA mark "Nakba Day" on May 15, the day after the Gregorian calendar date for Independence Day, Israeli Arabs hold demonstrations on the Hebrew date at which Independence Day is celebrated in Israel, making it possibe for them to disrupt festivities.
Remarking on the demonstration on Tuesday, Liberman wrote on Facebook "to those Arabs that took part today in the 'Nakba Day' procession and waved Palestinian flags, I suggest that next time they march directly to Ramallah and they stay there."
However, Liberman said those joining the demonstration were only "a minority" of Israel's 1.69 million Arab citizens, who make up 20% of Israel's population.
Liberman made a proposal, which Israel offered in peace talks in December, to swap the area known as the Triangle in east-central Israel to the PA, in return for Israeli sovereignty over settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria.
Around 300,000 Israeli Arabs live in the Triangle; according to the proposal they would become citizens of a Palestinian state. Liberman has been pushing the plan since 2004.
Regarding the Israeli Arabs constituting a "fifth column," it is worth noting that opinion polls in 2011 found over two-thirds of them oppose Israel's existence as a Jewish state. 62% said that Jews were foreigners to the Middle East who would eventually leave, while 71% accused Jews of committing a "Nakba."