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Arabs In Israel Contemplate Borders Of Palestinian State


Talks between Israeli and Palestinians seem to be nearing collapse. Today, Secretary of State John Kerry said there are limits to what the U.S. can do to keep them going. One of the big questions to be settled is where a border might ultimately be drawn, between Israel and an independent Palestinian State. Some Palestinian Arabs live inside Israel now, as minority citizens. A future border could place some of them inside a new Palestinian State or give them a chance to move there from Israel.

NPR's Emily Harris reports.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Yasser Shpata is sure of this.

YASSAR SHPATA: (Through translator) If there is a two state solution, I will move to the Palestinian state.

HARRIS: Shpata is Palestinian-Israeli. His parents lost land in the 1948 war, following Israel's declaration of independence. But at the end of the fighting, they wound up on the Israeli side of the border. Shpata is an Israeli citizen, married to a Jewish-Israeli woman. He is not sure she would move.

SHPATA: (Through translator) I don't think Efie would move to a Palestinian state. But I would, no matter what. I hope there would be a relationship between the two states and we could visit each other, but after 56 years in Israel, I think I would feel at home in a Palestinian state.

HARRIS: Shpata says he's tired of not feeling he belongs in the country where he's a citizen. Twenty percent of Israel's population is Arab. They are a minority with constitutional rights who experience frequent discrimination.

DR. ZUHAIR TIBI: The discrimination in Israel is really structural.

HARRIS: Zuhair Tibi, a family physician, is also Palestinian-Israeli. He understands Shpata's frustration. But he wouldn't move to a Palestinian state.

TIBI: We can't. We can't do that. To move to other states means to leave our home. We can't leave our home, because we are deeply connected to this place.

HARRIS: By this place, Tibi doesn't only mean Taibe, the Arab-Israeli town where he was born. He means places throughout Israel: the old port city of Jaffa where his mother grew up, the beach town of Netanya where he manages a clinic, anywhere he has friends, family, or memories. He expects if he chose to live in a new Palestinian state, he would be cut off from these places, as Palestinians in the West Bank are now.

HUSSEIN JBARA: This line was the border, where we stand now.

HARRIS: That's Hussein Jbara, standing in Israel and gesturing toward the Israeli built barrier separating him from some of his relatives who live in the West Bank. He's not sure he'd want to join them, even in an independent Palestinian state. He fears it might not be governed in a way he'd like.

JBARA: Like Syrian government, like Jordan kingdom, like Saudi Arabia. My vision is something different, democratic, liberated, industrialized. It takes many years to make a Palestinian state like what I want.

HARRIS: Jbara has lived in Israel for 70 years, but it's possible his property could wind up on the Palestinian side. Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Leiberman proposes drawing a border that would put land that's home to tens of thousands of Arab-Israelis into Palestinian territory. Israeli legal experts say it would have to be done with Palestinian consent.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: Lieberman's proposal didn't get a lot of attention on Taibenet, a young online news service in one of Israel's biggest Arab towns. Reporter Diya Yahaya says talk of reducing Israel's Arab population is nothing new. He's glad he doesn't live in the West Bank.

DIYA YAHAYA: (Through translator) There are no jobs there. Sometimes it's chaos. Here, even though we are Arabs in a Jewish state, there's more security and more opportunity.

HARRIS: He thinks he might feel out of place in a Palestinian state, as he does when he visits the West Bank now.

YAHAYA: (Through translator) As an Arab-Israeli, I feel discrimination in the West Bank too. They treat me differently. Not like other Palestinians. I don't really feel at home in either place.

HARRIS: Emily Harris, NPR News.


WERTHEIMER: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.