Israel’s hard-line foreign minister says he supports paying Arab citizens to leave the country.
In a manifesto of his Yisrael Beitenu party published Friday, Avigdor Lieberman says he favors ceding Arab majority areas in northern Israel to a future Palestinian state and providing economic incentives for Arab-Israelis – about 20 percent of Israel’s population of 8 million – to encourage them to emigrate.
The manifesto does not set out positions on the most difficult issues in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, the future of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Israel’s borders.
But it does acknowledge the necessity of territorial compromise for reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians, and also with moderate Arab countries.
Once a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Lieberman is now seen as harboring prime ministerial ambitions himself.
His offer to pay Israeli Arabs to leave comes as Netanyahu pushes forward with a contentious parliamentary bill to formalize Israel’s status as a Jewish state – a measure that many Arab-Israelis say will institutionalize their status as second class citizens.
The bill, which Netanyahu says is necessary to safeguard Israel’s future, is opposed by a wide range of Israeli political figures, including the largely ceremonial president, but is strongly supported by right wing members of his ruling coalition, including Lieberman.
Meanwhile, Israeli security forces fired tear gas at several dozen rock-throwing demonstrators at the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem following weekly prayers Friday. There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests.