“This was a hallucination,” says Lapid.
By David Hellerman, World Israel News
Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid denied a claim by Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi that he persuaded her not to defect from the governing coalition by promising to repopulate two Arab villages abandoned during the 1948 War of Independence.
Zoabi told Arabic language Nas Radio that Lapid promised to repopulate the former Galilee villages of Iqrit and Baram.
“Lapid promised me a historic achievement – to bring back the residents of the two Palestinian Arab villages in the Galilee ‘Iqrit’ and ‘Baram’ who were deported in 1948. We started working, but it was stopped,” Zoabi said.
Responding on Twitter, Lapid wrote, “It never happened and was never planned. This is a hallucination.”
Iqrit, northeast of Akko, and Kafr Biram, northwest of Safed, were both Christian villages.
Zoabi, along with coalition MKs Nir Orbach (Yemina) and Mazen Ghanaim (Ra’am) have broken ranks with the tottering coalition already weakened by Yemina MKs Idit Silman quitting the coalition and Amichai Chikli being ousted from the party.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) tweeted in response: “The legacy of the Bennett government – the right of return. “The government of Lapid and Bennett are working with MK Zoabi, Abbas, Tibi and anti-Zionist forces to restore the right of return – we must overthrow this weak government and return the country to our leadership.”
Israelis widely oppose the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel saying a Palestinian influx would leave Jews a minority in their own homeland, arguing that refugees should be resettled in a future Palestinian state.
Israelis also point out they have already absorbed around one million Jewish refugees who fled their Arab homelands in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant and elsewhere.