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Israel's foreign minister drafts regional peace plan

IANS 30 Nov 2014, 6:33:48 AM IST

Jerusalem: Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has drawn a plan for achieving peace between Israel and its neighbours which includes ceding land for a future Palestinian state and the transfer of Israeli Arabs to live in it.

It came amidst a series of crises that have threatened to dismantle the coalition government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks, Xinhua reported.

The document, obtained by Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot and published Friday, details Lieberman's and his right-wing nationalist party, Yisrael Beitenu's (Israel Our Home) platform in the event that early elections are called.

Entitled "Swimming against the Current -- the Vision of Yisrael Beitenu", the document spells out Lieberman's plans and ideology, in the forefront of which is a regional peace plan that includes his readiness to relinquish territory for peace.

It is the first time that Lieberman is proposing a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he is expected to present his plan to European foreign ministers at a gathering of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), to be held in Basel, Switzerland next week, and a day later to senior Obama administration officials at the Saban Forum in the US, according to Yediot Ahronot.

Reasoning his willingness to cede land for a Palestinian state, Lieberman underscores that while he has not given up his dream of a Greater Israel (a term referring to the state's current territory in its disputed post-1967 borders), he has reached the conclusion that "the unity of the nation overpowers the wholeness of the land... because you cannot compromise on the integrity of the people or overcome its loss".

Lieberman, traditionally among the hard-line members of Netanyahu's governments, explains that contrary to the fixed perception of other parties, his party "understands that Israel's conflict with the Palestinians isn't just territorial, but is a three-dimensional conflict" that also involves the Arab states and Israel's Arab citizens, over 20 percent of the country's population.

"Therefore, an agreement with the Palestinians must be part of a comprehensive arrangement, which will include peace accords with Arab states and swapping territories and populations of Israeli Arabs," Lieberman writes.

The social turmoil in Arab capitals and the rise of radical Islam in the Middle East, he asserts, have created an opportunity to resolve the decades-long conflict with the Palestinians.

The government, Lieberman writes, should encourage Israeli Arabs to move to a future Palestinian state through economic incentives.

Lieberman's plan comes amid a recent coalition crisis over the contentious Jewish state bill, which has received the backing of Netanyahu and seeks to define Israel as a Jewish nation state.

Critics have slammed the proposed legislation as discriminatory, saying it would place religion and ethnicity above democracy.