A couple of days ago, Palestinian President Abbas reiterated his stance that the only way for peace was through the two-state solution. This has been the party line for years, even though – despite international pressure and formal agreements to cease – Israel has continued its clear policy of colonization in Palestine and has, recently, pushed forward several items strongly suggesting that the current Israeli government is not truly interested in peace at all. The Palestinians, therefore, are stuck. Indeed, it seems Palestine must try a new tactic before it is too late.
Israel is implying through its demand of recognition as a Jewish state, its requirement of keeping the Jordan Valley and its debate concerning the loyalty oath that it wants to keep the whole pizza. To be sure, there is enough ‘pizza’ for Israel and Palestine to share, but it is increasingly obvious that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu wants the whole pie. Despite this, Abbas is clinging to what little is left. Soon, there will be none.
Palestinians must renounce peace talks as a strategy, as time and again history has revealed that negotiations cannot produce what is necessary for Palestinians. Rather than resorting to another violent intifada, perhaps the best path to an independent Palestinian state is, oddly, to give up on an independent Palestine and to demand equal representation in Israel.
Debating the stalled peace process a couple of days ago, Al Jazeera held a panel to discuss the options that Abbas has. The panelists ‘unearthed’ three options: continue talks with Israel despite Israel, quit talks and encourage a third intifada or demand recognition for a Palestinian state from the international community along 1967 lines. Abbas has been pretty clear that he will refuse to continue talks while Israel continues to colonize Palestinian land. Likewise, the possibility of Abbas quitting and encouraging a third intifada is pretty low. Abbas has overplayed his bluff of resignation and a third intifada would probably be more economically disastrous Palestine for Palestine than the second intifada. Finally, while the Palestinians and the Arab league are considering calling for international recognition it is highly unlikely that US President Obama, who has been – at least rhetorically – committed to this floundering peace process, would back such an initiative as it would trash his current efforts.
I find it much more likely that these talks continue to stall. With this crooked path to peace, it looks as though Palestine has no alternative but to continue to live under the occupation. However, I believe, would be to force Israel to make peace by disintegrating the Palestinian government and offer Israel a choice: truly make peace with a Palestinian state or incorporate all of Palestine, and the 4 million Palestinian Arabs who live there, into the only democracy in the Middle East ®.
Perhaps a radical idea, but Israel has been opposed to taking in the Arabs of Palestine ever since the occupation began in 1967. After the ’67 war, Israel was greatly split on the question of Palestine. Many Israelis wanted to keep the West Bank, but, like now, not the Arabs that came with it, leading then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to quip “The dowry pleases you, but the bride does not” to soon-to-be PM Golda Meir.
If in 1967, Israel did not want to incorporate 1.2 million Palestinian Arabs into Israel, it certainly would be hesitant to offer citizenship to 4 million today, particularly with the current, intense focus on Israel’s Jewish character. More to the point, incorporating Palestine into Israel would have an extreme effect on the demographics of the state. At the end of 2009, Israel had a population of 7,503,800, of which 1,523,900 – around 20% – were Arab. Add 4 million Palestinians and the Arab population of Israel rises to 5.5 million or around 48% of the population. Israel would cease to exist as a state with a significant Jewish majority, completely putting to rest the argument of Israel as a Jewish State.
[tweetmeme] But if we look at the number more closely, the demographics of such a state do not play in the favor of Israeli Jews. Several days ago Joseph Chamie wrote about the significant gap in the population growth of Palestinians and Israeli Jews and how Israeli Arabs have a higher growth rate than Israeli Jews.
it will be increasingly challenging for [Israeli Jews] to increase or maintain their current dominant majority of approximately 75 percent [in Israel proper]. The primary underlying reason is the fact that the fertility rates of Arab-Israelis are about one child higher than those of Jewish-Israelis.
With regard to immigration, past flows of Jewish immigration to Israel were substantial, contributing significantly to the growth of the Jewish-Israeli population. However, despite high levels of immigration in the past, in particular from the republics of the former Soviet Union, the proportion Jewish among the Israeli population has declined from a high of 89 percent in 1958 to 75 percent today, primarily the result of higher rates of growth among non-Jewish Israelis.
Moreover, it is important to note that after Israel, which accounts for approximately 42 percent of world’s Jews, the largest numbers of Jews reside in the United States – nearly 40 percent – followed by France, Canada and the United Kingdom, all less than 4 percent. Relatively few from the Jewish populations in these developed countries are likely to exchange comfortable lifestyles and economic opportunities for a more precarious residence in this troubled and unstable region.
Also, Israel is not immune to emigration of its own Jewish citizens. With attractive educational, employment and other opportunities abroad and difficulties at home, increasing numbers of Israelis have chosen to travel and live in other countries. Estimates of the number of Israelis residing abroad range from about 800,000 to 1 million – 11 to 14 percent – with about 60 percent settled in the United States and a quarter in Europe.
Currently, the Israel Arab population is growing at around 2.7% annually and the Jewish population is increasing at a rate of 1.7%. In Palestine, the Arab growth rate hovers at around 2.25 percent (2008 figures).
This means that if the populations were combined, a bi-national Israel/Palestine would have a Jewish population of 5,660,700 and while there would be 5,523,900 Arabs. If we were to assume a constant growth rate of both the Jewish and Arab populations, it is quite possible that Arabs would represent a majority in Israel/Palestine in 50 years.*
Obviously, many Palestinians would be considerable opposition within Palestine to a one state solution. Earlier this year, though, the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center (JMCC) found that one third (33.8%) of Palestinians and Israelis would support such a solution. But the current Israeli government would be even more loathe to incorporate Palestine and ruin the Jewish majority in Israel. Moreover, the disintegration of the Fatah-led government would hand Hamas more power in Palestine – something that Israel is certainly looking to avoid.
It is increasingly looking like a negotiated two-state solution between Abbas and Netanyahu is impossible and that the most realistic outcome of the failed talks would be a continuation of the hated occupation. Disintegration of the Palestinian government would force Israel to make a change. I can see three outcomes. First the current demographics and the future trends would push Israel into settling with Palestine in order to avoid losing its Jewish majority in Israel proper. Secondly, Israel incorporates Palestine and, over time, is forced to give its Arab population equal rights through international pressure. Finally, Israel incorporates Palestine and the population changes lead to a civil war – something that while being indescribably tragic and predictably one-sided, would force the international community into real action.
The current political line is that two-states through negotiation is the only peaceful end to the conflict; however Abbas, Netanyahu and Obama are unwilling or unable to reach this end through these means. The most likely outcome of the disintegration of the Palestinian government is a settlement between the US and Israel that would create a Palestinian state, as a bi-national state would result in either very clear apartheid (unacceptable to the US and the international community), the loss of a Jewish majority or civil war (both unacceptable to Israel).
Of course, this entire idea is based upon the will of Abbas and the rest of the Palestinian government to resign, making it as close to an impossibility as can be. However, the result would be positive change for Palestine, something that has been completely absent in the last forty years. If the current peace failure reveals anything, it is that a negotiated settlement with the US as an arbiter is impossible. Palestine must try a separate route to statehood and, ironically, the best means to do so might simply be to take a step back.
*Of course, this ignores the possibility of major events changing the population growth statistics such as Israeli policy and natural disasters. Photo from Seraphic Press