None so deaf as those that will not hear. None so blind as those that will not see.
– Matthew Henry (1662–1714)
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
– An aphorism of uncertain origins, sometimes attributed to Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
One might expect that any support for a single state among Israeli Jews would come from the far Left… Recently, proposals to grant Israeli citizenship to Palestinians in the West Bank, including the right to vote for the Knesset, have emerged from a surprising direction: right-wing stalwarts… We should watch how this debate develops and engage and encourage it carefully.
– Ali Abunimah, “Israeli Right embracing one-state?” Al Jazeera, August 29, 2010
One of the most astonishing and alarming developments that has emerged from the tumultuous events that have taken place in the Israeli political system in recent years is the dramatic convergence of its two allegedly antipodal extremes.
It is astonishing because the radical Left on the one hand, and the hard Right on the other, which are motivated by totally different – indeed mutually exclusive – ideological points of departure, have embraced the self-same policy paradigm. Both have, in principle, adopted, with varying differences in nuance and emphasis, the idea of a single sovereign state, composed of all the territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and all the residents, both Jewish and non-Jewish, as enfranchised, or potentially enfranchised, citizens.
It is alarming, because very little contemplative analysis is required to show that not only would this ill-considered prescription not achieve the lofty – albeit divergent – goals the sides aspire to, but it would precipitate outcomes the diametric opposite of those desired.
For the almost inexorable culmination of such a policy would be neither the liberal multi-ethnic democracy envisaged by the anti-Zionist Left, nor the Greater Israel Jewish nation-state,” aspired to by the ultra-Zionist Right.
The almost unavoidable result of Israel annexing the territories across the pre-1967 lines and conferring permanent resident status and potential citizenship on the Arab population in them would be to create – within a short period in historical terms – a Muslim-majority tyranny. As such it would be neither democratic as hoped by the Left; nor Jewish as wished by the Right.
Dynamics of demography
It is important to realize that this would be virtually inevitable even if the optimistic demographic statistics are correct and prevailing trends are shifting more in favor of the Jewish population.
The right-wing advocates of annexation of land across the pre-1967 lines and enfranchisement of its Arab residents seem totally unmindful of demographic trends within these lines – and of the socio-political effects that will inevitably accompany them.
Thus, for example, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, while in 1949, there were more than nine Jews to every Muslim within the Green Line, by 2013, 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 immigration from around the world.
Moreover, the post-2000 statistics provide cold comfort for anyone pinning his/her hopes on decelerating Muslim momentum. For as recently as 2000, the CBS figures showed there were more than five Jews to every Muslim, compared to under 4.3 in 2013 – reflecting roughly a 16 percent decrease in the ratio of Jews to Muslims within pre-1967 Israel in less than a decade and a half.
Accordingly, the Muslim minority – without the addition of any co-religionists in Judea-Samaria – is fast approaching 20% of the total population, which also includes Christians, Druse and other smaller ethnic groups). This, together with growing political awareness and sophistication, poses an increasingly difficult challenge to preserving Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, a challenge which doubling the relative size of the enfranchised Muslim population, via annexation, is likely to render impossible.
More than a random amalgam
But beyond the maintenance of a Jewish nation-state, the increasing proportion of Muslim Arabs in the overall population is likely to make the preservation of consensual democratic governance ever-more problematic.
Lest this last sentence elicit howls of protest that it somehow reflects racist prejudice on my part, let me hasten to invoke – once again – some of the pillars of the philosophy of liberal democracy, who realized that stable, sustainable nations are more than a random amalgam of individuals, bound by nothing more than the accident of their common geographic location.
Thus, citing John Stuart Mill’s seminal treatise Considerations On Representative Government (1861), Yoram Hazony points out in an essay published earlier this week:
“… multi-ethnic states would necessarily be tyrannies, he [Mill] wrote, because only oppression can keep the radically conflicting interests of the different peoples of the state at bay.”
The pervasive carnage across much of the Middle East, in the wake of the failed Arab Spring endeavor at democracy, bears eloquent testimony to the accuracy of that diagnosis and of the Hobbesian horror that awaits fractured societies when the Leviathan cork of dictatorship is removed – even when the societal schisms are far less pronounced than those between Jews and Arab Muslims.
Mill warns that
“Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of… a people without fellow-feeling [where] the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist.”
Mill also specified what might constitute the sense of such “fellow-feeling,” stipulating that “the strongest [element] of all is identity of political antecedents; the possession of a national history, and consequent community of recollections; collective pride and humiliation, pleasure and regret, connected with the same incidents in the past.”
‘Anthem does not represent me…’
But of course when it comes to Jews and Arabs, no such “identity of political antecedents” exists.
Take a given “incident in the past” – say the 1948 war for Israel’s independence. This is a source of “collective pride” for the Jews and “collective humiliation” for the Arabs. While the former celebrate it with joy, as marking a great Jewish victory and the attainment of national political sovereignty, the latter commemorate it with deep sorrow, as marking a humiliating Arab defeat and national catastrophe (Nakba).
The results of the March 17 election should have driven home the futility of trying to forge a cohesive society out of sizable components with such incompatible collective narratives, governable in consensual representative institutions.
The anti-Zionist Joint List composed almost exclusively of Israeli Arabs emerged as the third largest party in the Knesset. During the inaugural session in which the newly elected MKs were sworn in, nearly all the Joint List members walked out rather than sing the national anthem, “Hativka,” because it includes Judeo-centric words such as “the yearning of a Jewish soul” and references to the return to Zion. The head of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh, remained, but refused to sing, later saying
“I chose to… stand in silence. That was my protest against an anthem which does not represent me, which for me is the symbol of exclusion.”
Act of inconceivable folly
To gage the significance of this, consider the anomalous perversity of the situation liable to arise were Benjamin Netanyahu eventually to form a national unity government with Isaac Herzog. Then, Odeh, as head of the largest party not included in the coalition, would become the official head of the opposition. As such the prime minister would be obliged by law to brief him regularly (at least monthly) and update him on sensitive matters of state – about a state whose most fundamental symbols do not represent him, and for which most members of his party harbor undisguised hostility.
Accordingly, for anyone dedicated to the preservation of Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jews, it would be an act of inconceivable folly to advocate doubling the potential parliamentary constituency of those who openly strive to annul its status as such.
But this is precisely what right-wing proponents of annexation of Judea-Samaria and enfranchisement of its Arab residents are proposing to do.
With forlorn desperation they cling to “alternative” demographic data that show that even if such annexation-cum-enfranchisement were to be implemented, a 60-65% Jewish majority would be maintained, and with Jewish fertility allegedly overtaking Arab fertility, this majority could be maintained and even widened.
Disrupting demographic projections
For the record, I have had long conversations with the alternative demographers and am convinced they make a plausible case – probably more plausible than the mainstream “prophets of demographic doom.” However, even if they are correct, a permanent enfranchised Muslim population of up to 40%, who vehemently reject Israel as the Jewish nation-state, its symbols, its essence and the raison d’etre for its founding, will make the preservation of its current status untenable.
Indeed, such annexation/enfranchisement is liable to initiate processes that disrupt much of its advocates’ demographic projections, which will inexorably erode the Jewish population and elevate the Arab one – until any initial majority is denuded and the Jews once again become a minority in their ancient homeland.
One of the most prominent promoters of annexation-cum-enfranchisement is The Jerusalem Post’s Caroline B. Glick, who in her widely read column last week wrote:
“Israel must base its policy of sovereignty on two principles. First, this is a liberal policy that will ensure the civil rights of Palestinians and Israelis alike, and improve the Palestinians’ standard of living.”
Consequently, we must conclude that Palestinians will be accorded rights equal to other Israeli citizens – whether immediately or in stages – and that Israel must invest in enhancing the socioeconomic welfare of the Arab residents of Judea-Samaria in an endeavor to bring it to levels approaching those in Israel.
Unwanted unintended consequences
This might sound reasonable, until some thought is invested in the likely consequences.
By adopting “a liberal policy that will ensure the civil rights of Palestinians,” Israel is liable to elevate the electoral potential of the Arab sector from its current 13-15 seats in parliament to 25-30, making it virtually impossible to form a governing coalition without their endorsement. Various ad hoc parliamentary collaboration with other left-wing Jewish post-Zionist factions are likely to lead to numerous legislative enterprises that ultra-Zionist proponents of annexation-cum-enfranchisement would strongly oppose – in an ironic manifestation of unintended consequences.
Moreover, embarking on an endeavor to “improve the Palestinians’ standard of living” is precisely the opposite of what is called for (for example, see my “Israel’s only option,” December 25, 2014).
As I pointed out in “Sovereignty? Yes, but look before you leap,” January 9, 2014, it will siphon off massive resources to address yawning gaps between the societies on either side of the pre-1967 Green Line in virtually every walk of life – in the status of women, law enforcement, welfare services, road safety, education and school curricula.
Merging the two populations in common citizenship would catapult Israel backwards from the status of a developed nation to a developing one, not only jeopardizing its membership in the OECD, but relegating it from a post-modern society to a pre-modern one, in which many Jewish Israelis would rather not reside.
When anti-Zionists & ultra-Zionists converge
Not only would improving Palestinian living standards perpetuate a large, inimical population within Israel, but it would enlarge it, by making Israel an increasingly attractive destination for relatives in the Arab world, whose immigration would be difficult to prevent, given the equal civil rights granted the newly enfranchised Arab residents.
Worse, the socioeconomic realities created by the merging of the two populations would make Israel a less inviting abode for Jews in the Diaspora, and a less suitable one for Jews already in the country. With plummeting budgets available for the Jewish sector, increasing problems of personal security and deteriorating life style, Israel would find it more difficult to attract Jews from abroad, and more difficult to maintain the existing Jewish population.
The culmination of this process is not difficult to foresee – a population that has its Jewish character diluted and diminished until it all but disappears.
As the composition of population approaches that of others countries in the region, so would the political culture and customs, and a once vibrant Jewish democracy would, stage by stage, descend into a Muslim tyranny.
Thus, when the anti-Zionists and the ultra-Zionists rally around the same policy paradigm, you can be sure that disaster is afoot.
For the result would be neither a multi-ethnic democracy, nor a secure river-to-the sea Jewish nation-state. It would be the Islamization of Israel.
No wonder Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah is pleased as punch.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategic-israel.org)