A CANDID CONVERSATION (Part 1)

By Boris Shusteff

"And you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land before you . . .
and if you will not dispossess them . . . they will oppress you over the
land in which you are settled" (BaMidbar ch. 53).

In the realm of Middle East politics, there are certain controversial topics of discussion that people are extremely reluctant to discuss. While very much interested in the issues themselves, they run away from talking about them. Those who would prefer to avoid such uncomfortable topics had better stop reading now. However, they should know that a self-delusional "ostrich policy" will not alter reality and will not bring a resolution of those issues a single inch closer.

On June 18, after his return from Syria, Azmi Bishara, a member of the Israeli Knesset, said at a press conference in Nazareth, "I am not an Israeli patriot. I am a Palestinian patriot and I cannot regard Syria as an enemy state." The most troubling thing about this declaration is that it was made by a person who recently ran for the post of Israeli Prime Minister. If we have witnessed the day when a "Palestinian patriot" ran for the job of the Prime Minister of the Jewish state, this means the illness of Palestinian subversion is so advanced that surgical intervention is inevitable.

We need to talk about Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. There is a consensus today among Israeli leaders regarding this issue. It can be summed up with the joke about how the "Model T" Ford could be painted any color, provided that the color was black. Rephrased in local political language it sounds like this: the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs may be resolved in any way, provided that the Arabs stay where they are living right now. Or, using the "t-word", no transfer can even be discussed.

Yuli Edelestein, Deputy Minister of Immigrant Absorption, wrote in the Israeli Russian daily "Vesty" on June 19, that "the transfer of the Palestinians is unrealistic for implementation, since the moral norms of the Jewish society will not allow us to conduct a forceful deportation of several million people. In addition to this, the international community will never agree to this kind of action." We are not going to ask the Deputy Minister if the moral norms of the Jewish society allow it to watch, day after day, how Israeli Jews are murdered by those Arabs to whose suffering the highly-moral Israeli society is so sensitive. We will simply try to emphasize the seriousness of the issue of Arab demography and subversion.

The problem of Palestinian Arab demographic growth was the reason why Yossi Beilin dragged Israel into the swamps of Oslo. This Israeli Jew placed himself in the ranks of the most ardent Zionists and decided that he knew how to revive Zionism. On June 12, in an interview with Ari Shavit published in the "Ha´aretz" Magazine, he explained his position:

"The real question that I have asked myself every day for the past ten years is what will happen when an Arab majority exists west of the Jordan River; what will happen when the number of Arabs who are citizens of Israel and the number of Arabs who are under Israeli rule exceeds the number of Jews. Because that moment is not far off. We are just a few years from it. Less than a decade, a lot less than a decade. That is what constantly preoccupies me: What we will do on the day when the nightly newscast informs us at the end of the program, just before the weather forecast, that the Central Bureau of Statistics announced that the Jews have become a minority in the western part of the Land of Israel. Because if that day comes and we don´t have a border, if on that day there is no Palestinian state on the other side of a border, all hell will break loose here. I hardly want to think about what will happen in that case. It will be the end of the Zionist idea."

In order to preserve the "Zionist idea" Yosi Beilin found an absolutely fantastic solution. He decided to transfer the Palestinian Arabs from the Jewish state, together with the land on which they currently live. As he said in the same interview, if parts of Jerusalem are given to the Arabs, "220,000 Palestinians now in East Jerusalem will cease to live in Israeli territory." The naivete of this approach is striking. Perhaps temporarily, through this kind of "subtraction," Beilin could have kept the current demographic balance at a level that was acceptable (to him). Of course, the next generation, were it to follow in his footsteps, would be forced to use the same arithmetic logic, and cut again from Israel the Galilee, for example, where the Arabs will be in the majority.

The futility of Beilin´s exercise can be easily shown if one studies the summary of the conference on "The Balance of National Strength and Security in Israel" that was held in the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya in December 2000. The abstract of the discussed issues was presented in March 2001 to President Moshe Katzav. The Israeli daily "Ha´aretz" wrote on March 22 that, "The core of Israel´s political and defense establishment has come out with a document that corresponds, in some of its recommendations and in general tone, with the views of the far right. This is mainly true with respect to the importance attached to the demographic threat to Jewish Israel posed by the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs."

The document points out that "the birth rate of Muslims in Israel (4.6 children per woman) is nearly double that of Israeli Jews (2.6 children). Today, approximately one out of every five Israeli citizens is a Muslim Arab. Within 20 years, the ratio will be one to three." The document warns not only about the security problems and the issues associated with the implications for Israel´s identity as a Jewish state, it discusses the economic ramifications as well. It states, "Israel´s growing Arab sector is endowed with socioeconomic characteristics that will turn it into a millstone around Israel´s neck. A very small percentage of the Arab population participates in the work force, whereas its consumption of public services (welfare payments, social services, schools and health services) greatly exceeds its relative share in the total population."

Any objective person, after becoming familiar with just these two excerpts must agree that Beilin´s idea of relocating Israeli Arabs from Israel together with the land will not solve the problem. It will only exacerbate it. By forfeiting a large part of Jerusalem to the 220,000 Arabs, and accepting 100,000 Arabs into Israel (according to Beilin, this would satisfy Arab ambitions regarding the "right of return for the refugees"), Israel will not increase the birth rate among the Jews and will not reduce it among the Arabs. Very soon, today´s ratio of Jews to Arabs will be restored, though in a truncated, "Zionist" (according to Beilin) state. And then, using the same sort of thinking, Israel will have to decide the sequence of parting with the Jezreel Valley, Galilee and Negev, where the Arab demographic threat is most obvious.

This day may arrive much sooner than expected, since the emasculated Jewish state - without the Temple Mount, without a large part of Jerusalem, without Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) with their thousand places inseparably linked with Judaism and Jewish history - will become much less attractive to potential Jewish immigrants. If we recall that today´s demographic balance exists as it does only because of the almost 1,000,000-strong aliyah of Russian Jewry in the last ten years, we must agree that Beilin's fears are not exaggerated. However, it does not mean that his solution is the correct one.

22 July 2001



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