Lieberman offers population exchange plan at U.N.

Israel’s foreign minister presented a plan to the United Nations that would transfer Israeli Arab towns to a future Palestinian state in exchange for annexing Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Avigdor Lieberman offered a draft of his proposal Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly in New York. It would redraw the borders of Israel to include several large Jewish settlements in the West Bank and exclude large Israeli Arab towns, which would become part of a newly created Palestinian state.

“A final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has to be based on a program of exchange of territory and populations,” Lieberman told the General Assembly, Haaretz reported.

Lieberman stressed that his proposals did not represent a scheme for “populations transfer,” a phrase that evokes historical proposals by Israel’s extreme right to evict Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. “We are not talking about population transfer but about defining borders so as best to reflect the demographic reality,” he said.

His proposal has been criticized by many in Israel as racist and has been ill received by Israeli Arabs, who comprise approximately 20 percent of Israel’s population.

The decision by Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is the second-largest in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition, to present his plan to the U.N. General Assembly raises the question of whether it’s his personal idea or an official policy proposal of the Israeli government.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks launched earlier this month in Washington have hit a snag over the expiration of Israel’s moratorium on West Bank settlement building.