At Risk of Losing Their Israeli Citizenship in ‘Deal of the Century,’ These Arabs Are Feeling Betrayed

Esawi Freige served in the Israeli parliament for six years as a member of the left-wing Meretz party. Yet under U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century,” he could eventually be stripped of his Israeli citizenship.

Buried deep in the 181-page “Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People” is a paragraph of great relevance for the roughly 350,000 Arabs, like Freige, who live in an area of Israel known as “The Triangle.” Originally designated to fall under Jordanian jurisdiction, this cluster of towns along the Green Line (the pre-1967 borders of Israel) was handed over to Israel as part of the 1949 Armistice agreement. Trump’s new “vision” for peace in the Middle East raises the possibility that Israel would hand it back.

“The Vision contemplates the possibility, subject to agreement of the parties, that the borders of Israel will be redrawn such that the Triangle Communities become part of the State of Palestine,” the document states. “In this agreement, the civil rights of the residents of the triangle communities would be subject to the applicable laws and judicial rulings of the relevant authorities.”

Even though Arab citizens would not be forced out of their homes or off their land, “this proposal is effectively a plan for deportation,” warns Freige.

The former Israeli lawmaker is a resident of Kafr Qasem, a city of some 25,000 residents situated northeast of Tel Aviv and bordering Rosh Ha’ayin (home to Benny Gantz, the man with the best chance of replacing Benjamin Netanyahu as Israeli prime minister). It is one of 10 towns and cities that make up The Triangle.

A mosque in Kafr Qasem, one of 10 Arab towns situated in the Triangle area next to the West Bank.

“My father and I grew up under Israeli rule,” says Freige, 56, speaking in his Kafr Qasem office a few days after Trump’s plan was published last Tuesday. “My grandfather grew up under British rule and my great-grandfather under Ottoman rule. I say, ‘Enough already!’ It’s time we had some stability in our lives.”

Freige, an accountant by profession, served in the Knesset from 2013 until last September. He was sixth on the Meretz slate in last September’s do-over election, but the party only won five seats. He is currently 11th on the newly created Labor-Gesher-Meretz ticket, but, based on recent polls, has even less of a shot at getting in when Israelis vote again in March.