Israeli defence minister calls for Arab boycott after protests
Israel’s defence minister called on Sunday for a boycott of Arab businesses in an area where residents took part in violent protests against United States President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Avigdor Lieberman, who heads the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, said the Arabs of Wadi Ara in northern Israel were “not part of us” and that Jewish Israelis should no longer visit their villages and buy their products.
Hundreds of Israeli Arabs protested on Saturday along a major highway in northern Israel, where dozens of masked rioters hurled stones at busses and police vehicles. Three Israelis were wounded and several vehicles were damaged.
“These people do not belong to the state of Israel. They have no connection to this country,” Lieberman told Israel’s Army Radio. “Moreover, I would call on all citizens of Israel stop going to their stores, stop buying, stop getting services, simply a boycott on Wadi Ara. They need to feel that they are not welcome here.”
Lieberman has long called for Wadi Ara to be included in his proposed swap of lands and populations as part of a future peace agreement with the Palestinians. The residents, like many of Israel’s Arab minority, sympathise with the Palestinians of the West Bank and often openly identify with them.
But they are also Israeli citizens who largely reject the notion of becoming part of a future Palestinian state.
Ayman Odeh, the head of the Arab Joint list in parliament, said Lieberman’s call for a boycott of Arabs was reminiscent of the worst regimes in history. Gilad Erdan, the minister of public security from the ruling Likud Party, said that Lieberman’s diplomatic plan was not applicable and he rejected the notion of giving up the country’s sovereignty just because it had Arab citizens.
The violent protests were part of the larger Palestinian “day of rage” following Trump’s announcement that he recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and planned to move the US Embassy there.
Protests and demonstrations took place in dozens of locations across the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, lands captured by Israel during the 1967 war that the Palestinians want to be part of their future state.
Four Palestinians were killed in Gaza in Israeli airstrikes following rocket fire from there and in clashes along the border. Overall, however, the three days of protests passed relatively peacefully amid fears that they could spark another violent Palestinian uprising.
The status of Jerusalem lies at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Trump’s move was widely perceived as siding with Israel. Even small crises over Jerusalem and the status of the holy sites in its Old City have sparked deadly bloodshed in the past.
Trump’s announcement triggered denunciations from around the world, even from close allies, that suggested he had needlessly stirred more conflict in an already volatile region.
In Israel, the move was embraced as a long overdue acknowledgement of Israel’s seat of parliament and government and the historic capital of the Jewish people dating back 3,000 years. Upon departing for a diplomatic visit to Paris and Brussels, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was prepared to respond to critics.
“While I respect Europe, I am not prepared to accept a double standard from it. I hear voices from there condemning President Trump’s historic statement but I have not heard condemnations of the rockets fired at Israel or the terrible incitement against it,” he said.
“I am not prepared to accept this hypocrisy, and as usual at this important forum I will present Israel’s truth without fear and with head held high.”