Israel minister calls for boycott of Arab area after riot

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israel's defence minister called Sunday for an economic boycott of Arab citizens from area where unrest erupted over Donald Trump's Jerusalem declaration, saying they "don't belong" in the country.

Avigdor Lieberman's comments about Arab Israelis, who account for some 17.5 percent of the country's population, drew condemnation for their harshness.

"Those who demonstrate in Israel holding Hezbollah, Hamas and PLO flags are not part of the state of Israel," Lieberman said, referring to the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

"They are acting to harm us and destroy us from within," he said in a statement.

"I therefore call on Israeli citizens to impose an economic boycott on Wadi Ara -- don't shop there, don't eat in the restaurants and don't buy services from them."

Speaking on army radio, Lieberman reiterated his stance on land-swaps in a peace deal that would see Arab areas of Israel handed over to the Palestinians.

"These people don't belong to Israel," the minister said of Wadi Ara residents.

"As part of a final agreement, they must be part of Ramallah," while Israel would annex settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank.

Israelis must simply "give them the feeling they're not wanted here," he said, noting instances in which Arabs from the area carried out attacks against Israelis or supported militant activities.

Dozens of Arab Israelis had on Saturday night blocked the Wadi Ara intersection in northern Israel, police said, throwing stones at vehicles and burning tyres in protest over Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The windows of a bus were smashed and its driver was slightly injured. Police arrested two minors and a man from Arara, an Arab town in the Wadi Ara area.

Ayman Odeh, head of the parliament's mainly Arab Joint List alliance, firmly condemned Lieberman's comments.

"Calling to boycott citizens only because of their national and religious identity reminds the darkest regimes in human history," he said in a statement.

"The notion that such a person is in charge of the state's security should concern any sane citizen."

Clashes and protests erupted in the Palestinian territories after Trump's declaration on Wednesday, but there has been little unrest within Israel.

Arab Israelis are descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land following the creation of Israel in 1948.