Matan Kahana
Matan Kahana צילום: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israel’s de facto Religious Affairs Minister sparked controversy Tuesday, after he dismissed the chances of achieving peace with the Palestinian Authority, and expressing longing for a way to transfer the Arab population out of the country.

Deputy Minister Matan Kahana (Yamina) spoke recently at the Derech Avot high school in Efrat, south of Jerusalem.

Video footage from the visit published Tuesday morning showed Kahana ruling out the possibility of achieving peace with the Palestinian Authority, while also dismissing the idea of transferring the Arab population.

“If I had a button I could press that would send all of the Arabs from here, take them on an express train to Switzerland where they could live wonderful lives, I would wish them all the best in Switzerland and I’d press the button. But there isn’t a button like that. I guess they are meant to live on this land, in some way or another.”

“The idea, in my opinion, that if we would return to the [pre-] 1967 lines that there would be two states living in peace side by side – I think that is nonsense. They will never give up on Beit Gamliel or Al-Shaykh Muwannis – that is, Tel Aviv University.”

“The Arabs tell themselves another story, but we know that it isn’t true, that it is nonsense. They tell themselves that they are the ones who always lived here and that we came and conquered them.”

In response, Joint Arab List MK Ahmed Tibi, a former aide to Yasser Arafat, excoriated Kahana.

“There is a button which will take you out of the government and the Knesset. I will press it soon.”

MK Eli Avidar (Yisrael Beytenu) called Kahana’s comments “unfortunate”.

“It is a shame he said it. The Arabs are citizens of Israel and they are here to stay. Yes, we must get rid of backwards comments and ideas.”

United Arab List MK Walid Taha also responded to Kahana’s comments, saying: “Matan Kahana, we are here because this is our homeland. You and people who think like you can continue to fixate on your frustrations, because we aren’t leaving.”