Israeli plan to ‘transfer’ 300,000 Palestinians to West Bank is new normal — Zoabi

In recent days, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to build thousands more Jewish housing units in a large West Bank settlement, and annex that settlement to Israel. The White House has had nothing to say (as Martin Indyk notes), though liberal Zionists are angered by the plans.  J Street said that unilateral annexation of settlements is the “extreme and dangerous” agenda of Israel’s far right.

Netanyahu’s pursuit of his own narrow political agenda is steering Israel toward imminent disaster.

While Peace Now has called for the firing of David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador to Israel, because he is such a cheerleader for the Israeli colonization project.

Here’s another right-wing idea that has bubbled up in recent days (which liberal Zionists have not yet condemned). Earlier this week al-Monitor reported on a plan Benjamin Netanyahu is considering, devised by one of the legislators in his party, to divide Jerusalem so as to transfer the status of 300,000 Palestinians who have permanent residency under Israeli governance into the West Bank, as part of Area B.

Israel would get rid of 300,000 Palestinians, thereby preserving the Jewish majority in the state, and lessening its responsibility to Palestinians who live under its control. What more naked exhibit of apartheid could you want?

In… September… [member of Knesset] Anat Berko presented detailed maps to Netanyahu in which the city was divided into geographic and political regions, differentiated with colors. Digital simulations were also included. According to her plan, almost all the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem would be transferred to Palestinian control. In the first stage, they would be under Palestinian civil rule with Israeli security control, like area B of the West Bank. In the final stage, they would have area A status, that is full Palestinian control. This would decrease Jerusalem’s population by 300,000 Palestinians, leaving some 30,000 Palestinians alongside the more than half a million Jewish residents of the city. The Jewish demographic majority in Jerusalem would grow from the current less than 70% to more than 95%. Israel would be spared the billions of shekels it now pays in National Social Insurance payments and various stipends to the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, who have permanent residency status in Israel.

Jewish Insider emphasized the rebellion from the right. It headlined its excerpt of the report, “Is Netanyahu’s party ready to divide Jerusalem?” Again, quoting Ben Caspit of al-Monitor:

The plan and the meeting with the prime minister were revealed Sept. 30. A storm erupted at the Likud ministers’ first weekly gathering following the meeting, with members asking Netanyahu whether the news of it was true and whether he supports the plan for partitioning Jerusalem. Netanyahu hurriedly backtracked from the plan. He confirmed that Berko had, indeed, submitted “some papers” to him, but claimed that he does not support the plan and that it goes against the principles of the Likud.


Haneen Zoabi at the Jerusalem Fund, Oct. 5, 2017.

But what about the left? Is there any objection to the plan on that basis? None, apparently. Haneen Zoabi, the besieged Palestinian member of Knesset, said at the Jerusalem Fund yesterday in Washington that Israel has gone so far right that it is unrecognizable to those who remember it ten years ago. Plans that were extremist ten years ago are now in the center: for instance, the idea of transferring Palestinian citizens of Israel to a Palestinian sovereign/entity/bantustan in the West Bank.

The whole of Israeli society has shifted since the second intifada… more and more toward the right wing. Today you cannot talk about any meaningful differences between the right and the center within the Israeli politics regarding the Palestinian issue…. When [Avigdor] Lieberman talked about transfer in 2003 if you remember, he talked about transfer from the back of the Knesset, from the last line… and no one listened to him and they tried to silence him. “Don’t talk about transfer, it’s embarrassing us.” Now Lieberman with the transfer has moved from the back of the Knesset to the center of the middle of the Knesset…

The concept of transfer or of land swap that Netanyahu is now debating with Trump administration is a concept which is so, yanni, normal within the Israeli discourse. What was not normal, what was so embarrassing, so extremist ten years ago is now in the center. Now the settlers dominate the government.

When will the American media begin to catch up with this understanding, and reflect the truth of Palestinian conditions? (And let’s hope that liberal Zionists decry the transfer of 300,000 Palestinians, and continue the fracturing of the Israel lobby.)