Most Israelis firmly reject population transfer as a solution to the country’s problems. But on Monday, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel proposed a transfer not of people, but of the cats that crowd Israel’s streets. Ariel quickly withdrew the idea.
It’s not the first time Israelis have tried to expel something — or someone — from the country. Here are 8 more times Israelis have suggested a transfer abroad — with mixed results.
1. The West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip: Since 1977, Israel has at times tried to rid itself of territories it conquered in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and from Sinai twice: First, after the 1956 Israeli-Arab war, then in 1982, as part of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. As for the West Bank, Israeli prime ministers have offered twice to leave most of the territory, but Palestinians declined both offers. Now, 400,000 Israeli settlers live there.
2. African asylum seekers: Israel’s politicians have called the 60,000 Africans who have crossed into Israel since 2005 “infiltrators,” a “demographic threat” and, in one case, a “cancer.” The government has detained thousands of them, won’t give them work visas and ran a program to repatriate them or send them to third countries; 45,000 remain in Israel.
3. Arab-Israelis: More than a fifth of Israel’s citizens are Arabs. But some Israeli politicians want that number to go down. Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s former foreign minister, has pushed a two-state plan that would put Israeli Arab population centers outside Israel’s borders. In this year’s election, the slogan of Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party was “Umm al-Fahm to Palestine, Ariel to Israel.” It’s not the first time hardline politicians have suggested expelling Arabs, and this time it didn’t resonate: His party got only 5 percent of the vote.
4. Hanin Zoabi: Zoabi is the Arab Knesset member right-wingers love to hate. She’s called the Israel Defense Forces terrorists and participated in a 2010 flotilla aimed at breaking Israel’s Gaza blockade. Israel’s Interior Minister tried to strip her of citizenship that year. And last year, bombastic Likud lawmaker Miri Regev wrote on Facebook: “Hanin Zoabi should be expelled to Gaza and deprived of her immunity! She’s a traitor!” But Zoabi was reelected this year.
5. Meyer Lansky: In 1970, the American Jewish mobster fled to Israel to escape arrest and applied for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. But as any fan of “The Godfather, Part II” knows, Israel extradited him back to the U.S.
6. The British: They controlled Palestine from 1918 to 1948. We all know what happened next.
7. The Germans: A German Templar colony existed in what is now central Tel Aviv beginning in the 19th century. This became a problem in 1939, when some of the Templars were Nazis. The British expelled the colony, whose shingled homes are now a posh pedestrian mall.
8. Pigs: In 1962, Israel’s Knesset banned pig-raising by a vote of 42-15. Farmers got a year to sell their stock of swine, and then faced a $333 fine if they kept the hogs. The ban remains in effect, though you wouldn’t know it from the Tel Aviv restaurants advertising prosciutto and bacon.