Minister: Empty West Bank Area C of Palestinians, annex it

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Source: Times Of Israel

BY RAPHAEL AHREN

MOSCOW – Israeli minister Uri Ariel proposed removing “a few thousand Arabs” from Area C of the West Bank –– the 60% of the territory fully controlled by Israel — and then annexing it.

In an interview with The Times of Israel on Tuesday, Ariel (Jewish Home), the agriculture minister, also said the Israeli right is unconcerned over recent peace overtures by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since they will eventually come to nothing. Nonetheless, Ariel, who opposes Palestinian statehood, complained that by invoking a desire for a two-state solution, Netanyahu is fueling the notion held by many Israelis that the creation of a Palestinian state is inevitable.

Rather than Palestinian statehood, Ariel urged the annexation of Area C and said NIS 10 billion (some $2.6 billion) should be poured into the other Palestinian areas to drastically improve the local population’s quality of life.

“We have to aspire to the annexation of Area C; these are areas where there are no Arabs at all,” Ariel said. “We would remove a few thousand, who do not constitute a significant numerical factor,” he added. Ariel did not specify how those Palestinians would be removed, or where they would be relocated.

Ariel’s party leader, Naftali Bennett, who has long proposed annexing Area C, has acknowledged that many tens of thousands of Palestinians live there, and said they should be given the option of Israeli citizenship. Ariel, by contrast, previously called for Israel to annex the entire West Bank, giving the Palestinians “permanent resident” status in the expanded Israel, and the possibility of full voting rights.

On the issue of Netanyahu’s recent talk of peace overtures, Ariel said: “I am not worried so much, even though there are surprises in life.”

Netanyahu’s repeatedly declared desire to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians and his recent partial embrace of the Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and a “just” and “agreed” solution to the refugee question, will lead nowhere because of Palestinian rejectionism, Ariel said.

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