For many years the demographic factor has been used by many on the left as a justification for advancing the concept of land for peace. If Israel, so the theory goes, wants to maintain a large Jewish majority then areas liberated by Israel during the 1967 War which are predominantly populated by Arabs, namely Judea and Samaria, need to be relinquished as part of an eventual agreement. This way Israel can maintain an 80% Jewish majority, albeit within a very tiny state, as opposed to a significantly smaller majority were Israel to officially annex Judea and Samaria and grant citizenship to all the residents there.
Although not the only factor, the demographic scare tactic has certainly been one of the key points that have been used to sell the two-state solution.
The problem, however, with Israel ceding more land based upon this line of thinking is that it will likely spur the Arab residents of other areas with sizable Arab majorities, such as in the Galilee or in the Negev, to start clamoring for their own autonomy or that their region be attached to the new Arab state in Judea and Samaria.
Thus to assume that Israel with its sizable 80% Jewish majority in the post two-state solution world will no longer have to deal with Arab aspirations of acquiring more and more of whatever remains of the land of Israel is wishful thinking. In fact, just the opposite is true.
Feeling empowered by yet another Israeli retreat, this time from the Biblically-rich Judea and Samaria, the Arabs together with their many supporters throughout the world will continue to push their case. Moreover, this is not just an extreme act of ingratitude on the part of the Arabs but rather it’s a perfectly understandable response since from an Arab perspective the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, all of it, is theirs. Hence, all the attempts by Israel to improve the socio-economic situation of its Arab residents in order that they feel a part of and accept the Jewish state will never succeed on a mass level since deeply held beliefs and national pride are not the type of things that one casually abandons in return for an improved lifestyle. Therefore, only if Israel is ready to officially capitulate on its insistence that the country maintain some sort of Jewish character is there any chance of the Arabs fully accepting the state of Israel.
This is what the majority of the Arabs believe, regardless of where they live, and any attempt to ignore this or to brush it aside, either out of the terrifying fear of confronting the truth or out of the concern of ridiculously being labeled a “racist” for simply discussing the obvious, will not make this difficult and complicated issue go away. Whether we like it or not, one day we’ll have to deal with it.
In the meantime, the Israeli penchant for making concessions and good-will gestures as well as the constant erasure of formerly consensus red-lines only makes matters worse since in the eyes of the world it provides further credibility to the Arab claim that the land is theirs while simultaneously it undermines and exposes as seemingly fraudulent whatever little remains of Israel’s assertion that this same land belongs to the Jewish people.
Of course all of what has been stated until now, as serious as it might be, is peanuts when compared to the clear-cut threat that an Arab state situated in Judea and Samaria would pose to the very existence of the state of Israel.
On the other side of the spectrum there are those calling for the application of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria. Clearly recognizing the fact that if the pull out from Lebanon in 2000 and the Gaza Disengagement in 2005 both led to missiles eventually being fired deep into the heart of Israel, then Israel agreeing to the establishment of an Arab state in Judea and Samaria is nothing less than national suicide. Therefore full Israeli sovereignty needs to be applied, rather than relinquished, over Judea and Samaria.
However, in order to defend the bold assertion that Israel would not be crushed demographically even if Israeli citizenship is granted to the majority of Arabs living in Judea and Samaria, an idea that some well-known “sovereignty voices” on the right are advocating, fairly recent population surveys which claim that only 1.5 million Arabs live in Judea and Samaria as opposed to the previously believed 2.5 million are cited as “proof” that such a course of action would not lead to Israel’s downfall. Although it’s true that from a purely statistical perspective 1.5 million is better for Israel than 2.5 million, it’s naïve to believe that in the long-term Israel would survive the absorption of such a large number of citizens who basically view Israel as an enemy state.
The truth is that the demographic card which is used to support the line of reasoning of two ideologically opposed camps, one calling for an expansion of Israeli sovereignty and one for a reduction, is basically nonsense since both approaches will eventually lead to Israel’s demise.
Therefore, caught between a rock and a hard place the only way for Israel to prevent its destruction is to address both of the major threats it faces – the security one and the demographic one – rather than simply focusing on one of them. Translated into policy, Israel needs to declare sovereignty over Judea and Samaria while simultaneously making every effort to search for an alternative or creative solution for the Arabs.
All the good intentions aside, more than one hundred years of fighting has made it readily apparent that this tiny strip of land is not large enough for both Jews and Arabs and as a result they need to be separated once and for all. There really is no choice if Israel wants to survive in this neighborhood. Moreover there are many precedents for the separation of two antagonistic populations, a move that once upon a time was considered a common sense approach to peace making.
Although such a suggestion might not be too appealing to ears that are used to hearing politically correct nonsense, this does not negate the fact that it is both the only way for the modern state of Israel to survive and the only way to stop the endless bloodshed between Jews and Arabs. For both of these reasons, it’s long overdue that this option is seriously explored.