Avigdor Lieberman is at again. The right-wing Israeli foreign minister wants the Palestinian Authority (PA) to effectively accept the expulsion of Palestinian-Israelis (or Israeli-Arabs as they are known inside Israel) as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
Speaking to a government committee on Sunday, Lieberman said that the guiding principle of the current Palestinian-Israeli negotiations should be the exchange of land and populations and not land for peace. In other words a peace treaty should involve the Israeli annexation of heavily populated Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the PA taking the Palestinian population of Israel into territories under its jurisdiction.
He explained that since both the Arabs and the Palestinians have refused to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, the status of the Arabs in Israel should be the focus of the negotiations.
Lieberman is often at odds with other Israeli officials over some of his extremist views, but these statements are consistent with the essence of Israel's insistence that the Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state.
According to Palestinian officials, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, rejected that demand during the first round of direct talks in Washington earlier this month on two grounds. The first being that it would be a betrayal of the rights of Palestinian-Israelis to stay in their homeland and to fight for equal civil rights and the second that it would amount to forfeiting the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
But these two reasons are exactly why Israel is pushing for Arab recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. It wants the Palestinian leadership in one swift move to legitimise the expulsion of Palestinian-Israelis and to end any discussion of the right of return.