Friday, August 13, 2010

One is a state of mind

Shirza Herzog has what passes for a prominent name in Israeli politics but for the life of me I cannot recall one article or position she has taken via the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where she has been right. I really tuned out big time as she tried to pass off Sharon's disengagement as the best thing since sliced bread rather than a disaster of biblical proportions in the making for both the Israelis and Palestinians.

But she does bring up an an important topic which is being discussed seriously by both the Israeli and Palestinian body politic. Probably much more seriously in the Palestinian side than the Israeli – possibly because the so-called intelligentsia in Israel are leftwardly bent - even the so-called centralists bend from the left, and most of the opposition to the idea of a one state solution to the conflict comes from the Israeli left rather than the right. The Globe and Mail,
New winds seem to be blowing in Israel’s right wing. Prominent voices opposed to relinquishing the West Bank and Jewish settlements are calling instead for its annexation, with citizenship for Palestinians living there. On the face of it, this sounds virtuously democratic. But the right has no intention of abandoning its vision of a Jewish state in expanded territory. What’s being proposed is neither practical nor intellectually honest.

Israel’s 7.5 million residents already include nearly one million Palestinian citizens. Palestinian numbers are debated, but incorporating the West Bank and East Jerusalem would mean the addition of close to three million more and a narrower Jewish majority. Israeli support for a two-state resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians is largely based on this demographic imperative. If Israel wants to remain a democracy, maintain a Jewish majority and be a homeland for the Jewish people, it can’t possibly become a single binational state. (This underpins the reluctance of all Israeli governments to annex territories captured in 1967.)

In spite of this, Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin, former Likud defence minister Moshe Arens and former Settlers’ Council chair Uri Elizur believe that evacuating settlements and an unstable Palestinian state alongside Israel are worse than the risk of incorporating an even larger Palestinian minority in a Jewish state. The Israeli right has espoused annexation since 1967 but wouldn’t face up to its underlying weakness – the demographic issue and its impact on Israel’s democracy.

Ah, the demographic bogey-man. That argument was considered compelling during the re-birth pangs of the Jewish state, but in 2010, there is simply no place except for it in the modern state of Israel. I won't even bring up the charge intellectually dishonest charge - cause I cannot do it without a great deal of name calling, but ironically, the largest block against a single state solution comes from a marriage of the Israeli left and the official Palestinian leadership. C'est surprise - not.

Yoram Ettinger takes on the demographic bogeyman in Ynet News, an Israeli daily.
In 2010, a surge in the Israeli Jewish fertility rate is a long-term, unique, global phenomenon, while fertility rates decline sharply in the Third World in general and in Muslim countries in particular.

In 2010, there is a 66% Jewish majority in 98.5% of the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean (without Gaza) – and a 58% Jewish majority with Gaza. That Jewish majority benefits from a demographic tailwind and from a high potential of aliyah (Jewish immigration) and of returning Israeli expatriates.

In comparison, in 1900 and 1947 there was an 8% and a 33% Jewish minority, deprived of economic, technological and military infrastructures. In 2010, the number of Arabs in Judea and Samaria is inflated by 900,000 (1.6 million and not 2.5 million) through the inclusion of 400,000 overseas residents, a double-count of 200,000 Jerusalem Arabs (who are counted as Israeli Arabs by Israel and as West Bank Arabs by the Palestinian Authority), and by ignoring annual net-emigration since 1950 (e.g. 17,000 in 2009), etc. Meanwhile, a World Bank study documents a 32% “inflation” in Palestinian birth numbers.

Since the appearance of modern-day Zionism, the demographic establishment has contended that Jews are doomed to be a minority west of the Jordan River. It asserts that Jews must relinquish geography in order to secure demography. But, what if demographic fatalism is based on dramatically erroneous assumptions and numbers? What if the demographic establishment has adopted Palestinian numbers without auditing, although such numbers are refuted annually by an examination of birth, death, migration and 1st grade registration records?

What if the contended Palestinian numbers require a population growth rate almost double the highest population growth rate in the world, while Gaza and Judea and Samaria are ranked 5th and 38th in global population growth rate? What if the demographic establishment failed to realize that the Arab demographic surge of 1949-1969 (in pre-1967 Israel) and 1967-1990 (in Judea and Samaria and Gaza) had to be succeeded by a sharp demographic decline?

Contrary to demographic projections, the first half of 2010 sustains the growth of the Jewish fertility rate and the sharp and rapid fall of the Arab fertility rate throughout the Muslim World, as well as west of the Jordan River. The decline in Arab fertility results from accelerated urbanization and modernization processes, such as education, health, employment, family planning, reduced teen pregnancy, enhanced career mentality among women, in addition to domestic security concerns.

The Washington-based Population Resource Center reported a sharp dive in global Muslim fertility, trending toward two births per woman. For instance, Iran shrunk from 8 births 30 years ago to 1.7, Egypt – 2.5, North Africa – 1.9, Jordan – a “twin sister” of Judea and Samaria – is below 3 births per woman and Judea and Samaria’s fertility rate is 3.2 in 2010. According to demographic precedents, there is a very slight probability of resurrecting high fertility rates following a prolonged period of significant reduction.

In contrast with demographic fatalism, the share of Jewish births in pre-1967 Israel has increased in 2010 – mostly due to the secular sector - to 76% of total births, compared with 75% in 2009 and 69% in 1995. From 80,400 births in 1995 the number of Jewish births catapulted by 50% to 121,000 in 2009, while the annual number of Arab births has stabilized at 39,000 due to their most impressive integration into Israel’s infrastructures of modernity.

The fertility gap between Arabs (3.5 births per woman and trending downward) and Jews (2.9 and trending upward) was reduced from 6 birth per woman in 1969 to 0.6 in 2009. The erosion in the Arab fertility rate is 20 years faster than projections made by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

Okay, that's the elites duking it out, but what of those gun-crazed settlers roaming around Samaria and Judea? Joe Settler has this to say.

I’ll admit, certainly if you keep the Palestinian state of Hamastan (Gaza) out of the picture, it does have some points of merit.

Israel still remains a Jewish democratic state because we’re still the majority, and probably will continue to be so (and even with Gaza we still would have a Jewish majority). Israel annexes the whole of Judea and Samaria and gradually and carefully naturalizes the Arab population. It certainly diffuses the absurd claims that the Palestinians don’t have democratic representation (though I will admit that since the PA hasn’t had elections for a while, and the term of their Prime Minister expired over a year ago, there is something to that claim, but they’re just blaming the wrong people for that problem). The US trained PA military can be incorporated into the Police, where they’ll get along fine. And finally, everyone can live and build where they want (I can just see Tel Aviv getting flooded with West Bankers, and I would certainly start my expansion). Jerusalem wouldn’t need to be divided according to anybody, and the path of the light rail wouldn’t need to be changed. And finally, we can tear down that ugly wall heading towards the middle of my house.

After all, if we can all shop and work in Rami Levi together, a single state isn't such a impossible idea.

Joe has a valid point - it isn't an impossible idea and its time to seriously explore the idea rather than the knee-jerk no way, no how, response from the Israeli left. As for the demographics, if Jews in the homeland of the Jewish state can't care enough to keep the mitzvot – specifically be fruitful and multiply; is there any reason for Israel to remain the homeland of Jews who don't exist? Really people; what is the point?

Now there are a rather large number of practical hurdles which would have to be broached in any discussion of a one-state solution – none the less would be the Palestinian Authority and what passes for the political leadership of the Palestinians would be obviously dead set against the idea.

The red-line in the sand for the Israelis would be Hamastan in the south and 4 million+ Palestinians disbursed throughout the Arab world, but given, even if a Palestinian state would be established no one would be returning any time soon due to the one practical reality, which is, a Palestinian state could not adsorb an influx of 4 million people. The water resources and infrastructure would make it a human catastrophe in less than 6 months. Oh, did I mention Israel already has two official languages – Hebrew and Arabic - already?

NB: And yes, I am still having trouble posting at the Last Exile.


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