Thousands of Arabs protest in Israel against Trump peace plan

The proposal would change the status of their communities, making them a Palestinian enclave

Thousands of Arabs took to the streets in Israel on Saturday to protest against the peace plan proposed by the Trump administration.

About 20 per cent of Israel's population is Arab and the plan outlines a potential land swap that would transfer Arab communities in northern Israel to the state of Palestine, effectively rendering them a Palestinian enclave behind an Israeli security barrier.

As part of an "exchange" of territory, the Trump deal, entitled Peace To Prosperity, could result in the transfer of control of the Arab "triangle" – a cluster of 14 towns and villages – from Israel to a mooted Palestinian state.

"The vision contemplates the possibility, subject to agreement of the parties, that the borders of Israel will be redrawn such that the triangle communities become part of the state of Palestine," the White House said.

That idea was welcomed by former Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, who proposed such a swap in 2004.

But Arab residents find it a bitter pill to swallow.

In the triangle town of Baqa Al Gharbiya, about 2,000 people marched in protest against the plan on Saturday, while Israeli police kept a low profile with no visible presence.

The Baqa Al Gharbiya marchers chanted "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine."

At the rally was Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi.

"The cry going up here is, 'We are staying here'," he told AFP.

The Trump proposal does not advocate the physical relocation of triangle residents.

Instead it would change the status of their communities, making them a Palestinian enclave, cut off from the neighbouring West Bank by an Israeli barrier erected during the bloody second Palestinian intifada in the early 2000s.

They fear that as citizens of a Palestinian state, they would lose the benefits of Israel's thriving economy, its health and welfare system and the freedom to enter Israel, where many of their relatives have lived since before the creation of Israel in 1948.

Arabs currently number about 1.8 million out of Israel's total population of about eight million.

The Trump plan would take about 260,000 Arabs out of that total, leaving the remainder politically weaker, Israeli Arab NGO Adalah wrote on its website.

"According to the plan, the residents of the earmarked communities would remain in their homes but Israel's borders would simply be redrawn to leave them outside its border," it said.

If executed, it would bring about a demographic shift through "racially motivated separation".

The leader of the Arab Joint List, Ayman Odeh, said that Arab voters would respond by voting for the party in numbers against Israel's political establishment.

The plan has been widely received as a pro-Israeli document, one that gives Israel most of what it seeks from any peace deal, including control over the entirety of Jerusalem within the security wall, the chance to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, a moveconsidered illegal under international law, and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to Israeli territory.

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