The Perils of the One-State Proposal
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. – Ancient aphorism
In my column last week, I once again raised the issue of the fading relevance of what has been hitherto the dominant policy paradigm that has all but monopolized the debate on how to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs: the two-state solution.
I urged the initiation of vigorous debate on how Israel should react to this emerging situation and what policy prescription it should adopt to best contend with the onset of post two-state realities.
Preparing for post two-state era
Clearly, the gathering skepticism as to the feasibility of the perilous and pernicious two-state idea is, without a doubt, a potentially positive development for Israel. However, I cautioned, that whether or not the incipient benefits this entails will indeed materialize depends largely on the prudence and foresight with which Israel conducts itself and on the wisdom of the choices it makes.
The threats that may well emerge in a post two-state era are no less menacing to the survival of the Jewish-state than those posed by the two-state prescription itself — arguably, even more so.
I concluded the column by pointing out something that should be almost self-evident: To secure its survival as the nation-state of the Jews – the purpose for which it was established — Israel must embark on strategies that address both its geographic viability (i.e. the geographic imperative) and its demographic viability (i.e. the demographic imperative). Clearly, any policy which does not contend adequately with either of these imperatives imperils the Jewish nation-state.
It is, of course, relatively easy to demonstrate, to all but fanatically obsessive two-staters, that — barring some wildly optimistic, and hence unrealistic, best case scenario — the two-state prescription, in any configuration remotely acceptable to even the most compliant Palestinian “partner,” will leave Israel unacceptably vulnerable geographically.
Sadly, however, I lamented that most alternatives advanced by leading critics of the two-state approach entail proposals that jeopardize the existence of a Jewish Israel no less than the dangerous two-state folly.
Piquing one-staters’ ire
The column ignited a lively debate in cyberspace, particularly with right-wing advocates of a one-state policy whose ire I seemed to have piqued by suggesting that their proposal — i.e. annexation of all the territory of Judea-Samaria together with the Palestinian-Arab population resident there — would make Israel demographically untenable.
In defense of their position, they cited “alternative” (i.e. private) demographic studies that show the size of the Palestinian Arab population has been considerably over-estimated; and that, in recent years, there has been a dramatic plunge in Arab-Muslim birthrates, both in pre-1967 Israel and in Judea-Samaria, while Jewish fertility rates have risen strongly.
Let me clarify at the outset: I find these “alternative” demographic studies persuasive and believe their conclusions probably reflect the realities on the ground better than more commonly cited official, Establishment estimates. Moreover, there can be little doubt as to the steep decline in Arab-Muslim birthrates and the recent increase in Jewish ones.
However, even if we accept the numerical validity of these optimistic assessments, the political conclusions that Right-wing one-staters draw from them are – to greatly understate the case — highly questionable, and Israel would do well to avoid basing long-term national strategy on them.
Some daunting statistics
To grasp the detrimental repercussions of incorporating a large and largely incompatibly recalcitrant Arab-Muslim population into Israel’s permanent populace — whether as fully enfranchised citizens or not — it is important to recognize that the problem is not only of electoral arithmetic at the polls. Perhaps far more important is the impact on the country’s socio-cultural fabric, its national coherence and its ability to function as an undisputed Jewish state.
Seen in this regard, the statistics — even the optimistic version thereof — appear far more daunting. Indeed, even within the pre-1967 lines the picture of demographic trends and socio-political effects accompanying them are dour.
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), there were more than nine Jews to every Muslim within the Green Line in 1949, but, by 2015 this ratio had dropped dramatically to just under 4.3 Jews for each Muslim. In other words, in the six-and-a-half decades since independence, the Muslim population has more than doubled in comparison to the Jewish population – despite massive waves of Jewish immigration from around the world.
Moreover, the 21st-century statistics provide cold comfort for anyone pinning their hopes on decelerating Muslim fertility momentum. As recently as 2001, CBS figures showed there were more than five Jews to every Muslim, compared to under 4.3 in 2015 – reflecting about a 17% percent decrease in the ratio of Jews to Muslims within pre-1967 Israel in less than a decade and a half.
Risk-fraught one-state proposals
Again, it is true that the difference between Jewish and Arab birth rates is rapidly narrowing, almost approaching parity within the pre-1967 lines where the Arab rate remains just slightly above the Jewish one.
There is, however, no guarantee that this trend will continue, that Jewish fertility rates will continue to rise significantly and that Arab rates will not bottom out around present figures. Indeed, Israeli families today are much larger than those of other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries; accordingly, it is far from implausible that Jewish birthrates may well remain at approximately current levels. To bet the “Zionist farm” on the assumption that current trends will continue and that a sizeable disparity in favor of the Jews will develop is risky, to say the least, if not dangerously farfetched.
The Muslim minority within the pre-1967 lines – without the addition of any co-religionists in Judea-Samaria – is fast approaching 20% of the total population. Thus, in the absence of overwhelmingly compelling evidence to the contrary, the prudent working assumption for the nation’s future is that it is likely to stabilize at present levels.
This, together with growing Israeli-Arab political awareness and sophistication, poses an increasingly difficult challenge to preserving Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, a challenge which is likely impossible to solve — even without doubling the relative size of the permanent Muslim population, via annexation.
Almost childlike naiveté
Indeed, it takes an almost childlike naiveté to entertain the belief that Israel could sustain itself as a Jewish nation-state with a massive Muslim minority of 35-40% – as the societal mayhem wrought in Europe by far smaller proportions indicates.
In the past, I have endeavored to underscore the irrevocable havoc that would almost inevitably follow a policy calling for the annexation of Judea-Samaria and continued permanent residency of the Arab population there — see: To My Colleague Caroline, A Caveat; Sovereignty? Yes, But Look Before You Leap; Islamizing Israel – When The Radical Left And Hard Right Concur. I urge readers to take note of the arguments I raise in these articles, not all of which I am able to include in this essay.
There are only two post-annexation possibilities: Either the Arab population in the annexed territories will be accorded equal civil rights and liberties, or they will not. If they are not — and in the absence of any clear blueprint for their political future — Israel will be hopelessly, and rightly, exposed to accusations of ethnic discrimination, especially if the Jewish residents in those areas are accorded such rights.
If they are, the impact on Israel’s socioeconomic and cultural fabric is likely to be devastating in terms of the effect on societal norms, leisure activities, acceptable modes of entertainment, gender equality and so on. This is especially true when the bulk of the newly annexed population has been subjected to decades of Judeophobic indoctrination and Judeocidal incitement.
The societal impact of one-statism
Once the Arab population of Judea-Samaria becomes incorporated into Israel’s permanent population, at least two crucial elements of national life are almost certain to be dramatically — and in Zionist-compliant terms, negatively – impacted. The one is the distribution of national resources; the other is population flows into and out of the country.
With regard to the former, clearly once the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria become incorporated into the country’s permanent population, whether enfranchised or not, Israel will not be able to afford the kind of socio-economic disparities that prevail between the pre- and post-annexation segments of the population.
Accordingly, huge budget resources will have to be diverted to reduce such disparities, thus siphoning off funds currently spent on the Jewish population (and Israeli-Arabs) in terms of welfare, medical care, infrastructure, education and so on.
Indeed, if enfranchisement (eventual or immediate) is envisaged, the electoral potential of the Arab sector is liable to be elevated from its current 13-15 seats in parliament to 25-30. This will not only hugely bolster its ability to demand enhanced budgetary allotments, but also make it virtually impossible to form a governing coalition without their endorsement.
Moreover, various ad hoc parliamentary collaborations with radical Jewish left-wing factions are likely to nullify any formal calculations of an ostensible “Jewish majority,” and lead to legislative enterprises that ultra-Zionist proponents of annexation would strongly oppose – in an ironic manifestation of unintended consequences.
One-statism and the impact on “aliyah”…and “yeridah”
Some optimistic (or is that myopic?) one-staters believe that, following annexation of Palestinian-Arabs residents in Judea-Samaria, the Jewish population will be bolstered significantly by energized waves of Jewish immigration, aliyah.
Such claims are unpersuasive, to say the least. After all, it is not immediately obvious how Israel, with a 30-40% Muslim minority, will be any more attractive as a place to live than it is today to Jews abroad — or for Jews already resident to stay in Israel. Indeed, a far more plausible case can be made for the claim that such annexation will deter Jewish immigration and spur Jewish emigration, or yeridah.
In terms of GDP per capita, Israel would then be catapulted backwards by decades, jeopardizing its status as an advanced postindustrial country and its newly won membership in the OECD. Such a development would hardly be likely to attract educated Jewish professionals from abroad to opt for Israel as their preferred place of abode.
Indeed, with an emboldened and enlarged Muslim minority, the new post-annexation Israel is not only likely to impede Jewish immigration, but stimulate Jewish emigration of current Israeli citizens wishing to distance themselves, and their families, from the emerging post-annexation societal realities.
By contrast, there is liable to be precisely the opposite effect on Arab population movements in and out of the country. Annexation, and the prospect of being incorporated into the permanent population of Israel, is likely to bring the currently accelerating Arab emigration to a shuddering halt.
One-statism and the Lebanonization of Israel
For those who believe Israel would adopt a far more robust and assertive policy than the Europeans in dealing with defiant challenges from its Muslim communities, the flaccid Israeli response to phenomena like illegal Arab construction in the Galilee or general lawlessness (from drug trafficking to polygamy) in the Negev leave ample scope for skepticism, if not downright pessimism.
Annexation of Judea-Samaria, without any program for drastically reducing its Arab population, will inevitably culminate in the Lebanonization of Israel, with all the attendant inter-ethnic strife and violence that haunts that tortured and fractured country. It is a proposal that – however well-intentioned — will bring about the end of the Zionist dream, as surely as the two-state solution it was meant to replace.
Which brings me full circle.
Allow me to conclude this column with the same words with which I concluded last week’s.
To ensure its survival as the nation state of the Jewish people Israel requires a policy paradigm that addresses both its geographic and demographic imperatives for survival…
Accordingly, it must be a proposal that ensures Israeli control over vital geo-strategic assets in Judea-Samaria and drastically reduces the presence of the hostile Arab population resident there — preferably by non-coercive means such as economic inducements…which, by the way, is what attracted the bulk of the Arab population here in the first place.
To formulate such an alternative policy paradigm in lieu of the two-state formula, to acquire sufficient legitimacy for it, to advance it in the public discourse and to generate widespread recognition for its adoption as a national imperative is undoubtedly one of the most pressing and pertinent questions on the Zionist agenda today.
Dr. Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategic-israel.org)