Jonathan Cook reports:
Israel secretly staged a training exercise last week to test its ability to quell any civil unrest that might result from a peace deal that calls for the forcible transfer of many Arab citizens, the Israeli media has reported.
The drill was intended to test the readiness of the civil defence units, police, army and prison service to contain large-scale riots by Israel’s Arab minority in response to such a deal.
The transfer scenario echoes a proposal by Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s far-right foreign minister, for what he has called a “population exchange”. Mr Lieberman proposes land swaps that would force many of Israel’s 1.3 million Arab citizens into a future Palestinian state in return for annexation into Israel of most of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The scheme has been widely criticised as a violation of international law.
He outlined his proposal to the United Nations General Assembly last month. Although Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said he was not consulted about the speech, he did not admonish Mr Lieberman. The training exercise has fuelled fears among Israel’s Arab minority that the government might be hoping to pressure Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), to agree to land and population swaps as part of US-sponsored peace negotiations, which have stalled.