Israeli negotiations with Syria pose an interesting legal question: can a state legitimately cede a part of its territory?

Minor border adjustments are common worldwide, but the question of the Golan Heights is different with respect to size and unilateralism. Israel receives no land from Syria in return. Thus, ceding the Golan Heights amounts, from the Israeli perspective, to taking land by force. Since Syria only agrees to cease belligerence with Israel in exchange for the Golans, Israel effectively gives in to a threat of force. Such an agreement would be illegitimate according to the UN charter. There is a concomitant problem with the Israeli penal code, which proclaims it a high crime to negotiate the surrender of any part of Israel to an enemy.

The Knesset will circumvent the problem by annulling the law on annexing the Golan Heights. Voting on the annulment would still be treason, but the MPs need not fear the ultra-left Supreme Court, which will support any defeatist bill.

Abandoning the Golan Heights opens the issue of Umm al Fahm, the Arab part of Lod, the Arab villages of Greater Jerusalem, and other borderline Israeli Muslim towns. If the Knesset can unilaterally abandon the Golans, then we can also abandon the Arab towns. There is no need to negotiate them away in peace agreements as Lieberman suggested. Just amend the Knesset’s approval of the 1948 ceasefire lines the way they are going to annul the Golan annexation bill.

The Arab citizens of these towns can be stripped of Israeli citizenship at the same time. If the Knesset declares Israel’s annexation of those towns to be a mistake, then awarding citizenship to their residents is groundless. Realistically, such a measure would require shooting the Supreme Court, which is more pro-Palestinian than the Jordanian king who stripped the West Bank Palestinians of Jordanian citizenship. Still, very few Arabs would leave the towns which Israel is about to abandon: property values there will go down immediately, and they won’t be able to buy comparable housing in Smaller Israel.

Unilaterally abandoning land with its residents is nothing new. Jordan did just that in 1988 when it severed ties with the West Bank and rescinded the Jordanian citizenship of its residents. Besides a few ritual condemnations from human rights organizations, there were no sanctions.

By this simple legalistic measure Israel can get rid of a third of her Arabs.