One Jewish Democratic State
On January 5, The New York Times published an article echoing some proponents of the two-state solution, who warn that the failure of the “peace process” will mean the end of Israel as a Jewish democratic state. They claim that if Israel declares sovereignty over the West Bank, Israel will no longer be a majority Jewish state — because the addition of three million Palestinians will create an Arab majority in the near future, due to Arab fertility rates. Furthermore, they say, if Israel fails to grant immediate citizenship to West Bank Palestinians, the Jewish state will no longer be a democracy. Thus Israel will cease to be a Jewish democratic state, and the Zionist enterprise will fail.
But there are critical problems with the above conclusions. The Arab population of the West Bank is less than 1.7 million, not three million. The three million number reflects data presented by the Palestinian Authority. Our definitive study (published by the Begin Sadat Center at Bar Ilan University) documented the inflated counting by the Palestinian Authority. Furthermore, the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, the World Bank and other international data collection agencies confirm that Jewish fertility now exceeds Arab fertility. Jewish immigration and Arab emigration also contribute to an increasing Jewish majority in the West Bank and Israel as a whole.
Some people argue that the failure to grant immediate full citizenship to all residents of the West Bank would brand Israel as an apartheid state. But Israel’s Declaration of Independence declared that all people would have civil and religious rights. Israel is not an apartheid state. The Jewish nation is a racially diverse country. Its citizens include Jews from every place on the planet — as well as non-Jews. And these non-Jews enjoy genuine freedom, which is in stark contrast to the apartheid status of Jews and Christians in much of the Muslim world.
Even though the PLO Charter (1964) and Hamas Covenant (1988) call for Israel’s extermination — as do Israel’s neighbors in Syria, Iran and elsewhere — Israel’s minority Arab population are full citizens and are represented in all walks of Israeli life — as MKs, government ministers, judges, professors and senior business and community leaders. Israel treasures its non-Jewish residents, and its status as a democratic state.
If Israel declares sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria, it should grant immediate universal citizenship to the Arab residents of the West Bank — but only when regional peace breaks out. Jihad and suicide bombings must end, and Muslim leaders and groups must stop lauding violence. And Arab leaders, in both Israel and the region, must recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
In the interim, Arab residents of the West Bank will have full civil and religious rights. They will autonomously manage their municipal affairs, and democratically elect their local leadership — but should not participate in national elections. Clearly, as long as Hamas and Fatah seek Israel’s destruction — and as long as global Islamic violence continues — one cannot expect that Israel would be suicidal and risk giving national voting rights to a population that wants to undermine its very existence.
The world of Islam is in the midst of a violent storm. Hopefully, a 21st–century reformation is in the offing. Judaism and Christianity have previously undergone reformations. But without a total cessation of the widespread wars of Islam, Israel cannot be expected to allow a Muslim minority influenced by violent anti-democratic forces to participate in life and death national decisions.
But, you ask, won’t the world brand Israel as an apartheid state — claiming that it gives its Muslim minority the status of second-class citizens? A world that has been blind to true violent apartheid and racism cannot dictate to Israel how to best preserve itself and continue as a democratic Jewish state.