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  • Houses are seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim as the Palestinian village of Al-Eizariya is seen in the background.

    Houses are seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim as the Palestinian village of Al-Eizariya is seen in the background. | Photo: Reuters

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Uri Ariel, minister of agriculture, told the Times of Israel that Israel should annex Area C of the West Bank since "there are no Arabs at all" living there.

An Israeli minister said he wants to expel the estimated 300,000 Palestinians from the largest area of the West Bank and annex it, since “there are no Arabs at all” and they “do not constitute a significant numerical factor.”

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“This is not the first time that Israeli officials have indulged in demeaning, racist and dehumanizing rhetoric against Palestinians,” said the press director for Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in a statement on Wednesday, responding to Ariel’s Tuesday interview with the Times of Israel. “Palestinians must be treated as a people with rights and freedoms to be respected; not as an obstacle in the way of Israeli politicians' nationalistic ambition who seek to justify Israel's 'Jewish character' at the expense of the indigenous population,” Dajani added.

Several ministers have proposed annexing Area C, which includes 60 percent of the West Bank and is largely made up of Israeli settlements. Israel controls the area’s law enforcement, planning and construction, leading U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to say it "is effectively restricted for any Palestinian development.” Earlier, Israel’s Minister of Judiciary Affairs Ayelet Shaked said that Israeli law should be applied to the area.

Ariel did not mention what should happen after “transferring Arabs” besides pumping US$2.6 billion into the area in the next 10 years to “invest in economic projects that benefit" the Israeli settlers. He had previously said that the Palestinians living there should be granted permanent residence in what would then be Israel.

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The minister of agriculture, who is against any form of Palestinian statehood, also said that Israeli ministers proposing returning land to Palestinians was “absurd” because “the word ‘return’ isn’t appropriate — it’s ours, not theirs.”

“There can be no comparison” between the amount of time Israel and Jordan occupied the land, said Ariel.

He criticized Netanyahu’s partial acceptance of the Arab Peace Initiative, endorsed by the Arab League, and denied peace talks led by France would lead to any negotiation.

France convened foreign ministers from major powers last Friday to find enough common ground to bring the two sides back to the table by the end of the year.

Neither Israel nor Palestine has been invited, but Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat wrote in a column last week that the old method of bilateral talks had failed and that it was time to move to a "multilateral framework" that would allow the international community to impose international law in the region.
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