February 1, 2002

The Dangers of a Palestinian-Arab State

UNDERLYING MOST of the arguments supporting the recent “disengagement” plan, in which approximately 10,000 Jews in Gaza and the Northern West Bank were expelled from their homes and Israel pulled all of its military forces out of the areas, is the idea that the Palestinian Arabs must be given a state.

This is based on the practical need to deal with their supposed demographic superiority over Jews and the democratic-moral need to give them representative government. This is ultimately what the disengagement plan does; it de facto gives the Palestinian Arabs a complete and Israeli-supported autonomy in Gaza.

It has long been argued that since the Palestinian Arab birth rate is skyrocketing, Palestinian Arabs will eventually make up the majority of the population living in Israel. This raises an obvious question: How could Israel remain a Jewish state if the majority of Israelis are not Jewish?

In this scenario, if Israel were to remain a Jewish State, “apartheid” would be necessary. Since this is an abominable policy that no democratic state could ever institute, Israel must “disengage” itself from its non-Jewish population by awarding them their own state.

This argument, which appeals to a broad political spectrum, is supplemented by the specious argument that Palestinian Arabs are only trying to rid themselves of the so-called “occupation,” not seeking to destroy the entire Jewish State. Then there are those who seek the moral high ground in the international arena and argue that once the Palestinian Arabs have a state, they will have no excuse for harboring terrorists and will be held accountable for any and all acts of aggression. Each of these arguments is based on a fallacy.

The Palestinian Authority does not only want to eradicate the Israelis from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in order to eliminate the Jewish presence in those regions; it is clear that they also seek the destruction of the entire state of Israel. Even after Yasser Arafat’s death, the Palestinian Authority’s textbooks, media, and constitution continue to deny Israel’s right to exist. The PLO charter to this day has not been amended to repudiate calls for “armed resistance” for the “liberation of Palestine,” and PA-sponsored television regularly incites children and adults to become “martyrs” (suicide bombers) for this cause. During the withdrawal itself, Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qurei openly set their sights on Jerusalem, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad declared that their “resistance” efforts would persist in the wake of this “victory” in Gaza.

Further proof that the PA’s gripe is not merely the disputed territories acquired by Israel in the defensive Six-Day War in 1967 is that the PLO was formed in 1964, when Israel did not control these areas; there was no “occupation” to speak of. Gaza, Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) were controlled by Egypt and Jordan, respectively.

Still, many argue, even if the Arabs wanted real peace, the demographic problem would pose an existential threat to the Jewish State of Israel. Demographic studies show that the Arabs, who have been procreating far more rapidly than their Jewish counterparts for many years, now stand to surpass the Jewish population within the next few years. They could then peacefully and democratically change the Jewish character of the state, and abolish the Law of Return for Jews. The Arabs could hypothetically replace Israel with “Palestine” without firing a single shot.
This demographic trend is indeed ominous for the future of the Jewish State. Or it would be, if it were true. In January this year, a study conducted in Israel and later sponsored by the American Heritage Foundation completely refuted the validity of the dire “demographic threat.”

The demographic as well as the moral imperatives to create a Palestinian state simply do not exist.

The study, which was reported on in the New York Sun, Israelinsider, the Jerusalem Post, and Arutz Sheva, states that the Palestinian Arab population has been overstated by as much as 1.5 million and that the Jewish majority in Israel will continue for years to come. According to the researchers, “the assumption that Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza pose a demographic threat to Israel has to be radically revised. The 2004 Palestinian Arab population was closer to 2.4 million than to the 3.8 million reported by [the] Palestinian Authority.”

The erroneous figures were reported by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, which used projected population numbers rather than actual population counts. The bureau also counted Arabs twice in multiple instances. For example, 200,000 Jerusalem Arabs were counted both by Israel as inside the “Green Line,” and then again by the Palestinian Authority. One hundred fifty thousand Arabs who have received Israeli citizenship since 1993 are counted twice as well. Three hundred thousand non-resident Arabs who have lived abroad were also included in the erroneous figures. The new study (which is available online at www.pademographics.com) details how this double counting, in addition to false birth and immigration rates, has boosted Palestinian Arab numbers significantly, thus creating a fear of demographic “threat” and an unwarranted sense of urgency to “disengage.”

But the demographic “bomb” is a non-issue not only because the threat to Jewish majority does not exist, but also because the number of Palestinian Arabs is not relevant when considering Israel’s security and moral concerns as a democratic state. The demographic argument for a Palestinian Arab state assumes that by virtue of Israel’s controlling the disputed territories, Palestinian Arabs living there have a demographic right to become Israeli citizens and vote in Israeli elections.
The reality is that although people have a right to a representative government, and although the Israeli government controls the territories, it does not necessarily follow that the government in which Palestinian Arabs should be represented is the Israeli government. Nor does it require that they should have a contiguous territory of their own or a state of their own. Such a reality would afford the Palestinian Arabs many options, none of which are democratic in nature.

First among these options is the ability to create a military. If an organization like the Palestinian Authority, which still lists the destruction of Israel among its goals, were to have an army, the only nation that it would use that army against would be Israel. After all, it’s not as if the Palestinian Arabs want to protect themselves from attacks from other Arab nations and believe that Israel would stand by if Arab armies invaded Gaza or the West Bank.

The creation of an army whose government’s stated goal is to destroy Israel can never be justified in terms of benefiting Israel’s security. This government would attack Israel with its own army and could invite other hostile Arab armies (and there is no shortage of these) to use its state as a base for their own attacks on the Jewish State, as Jordan has done in the past. In Gaza this would create a larger perimeter area that Israel would have to defend. This puts Israel at a military disadvantage because it cannot sustain high troop levels needed to defend a larger perimeter, while countries like Egypt can. This was, in fact, the strategy successfully used by Egypt at the start of the Yom Kippur War in crossing the Suez Canal.

Without completely overhauling the culture of hate that currently pervades Palestinian Arab society (as evidenced by their textbooks and media), it would be foolish to think all attacks on Israel would cease overnight with the creation of a new state. Without first ensuring security and implanting the reforms necessary to create a liberal society, it would be suicidal for Israel to allow an elected Palestinian Arab government with an army to be created.

For the same reasons, a Palestinian democracy today would inevitably turn into a dictatorship. Natan Sharansky, who authored a book, The Case for Democracy, to argue the case for pushing non-democratic countries to become democratic, resigned from his position as an Israeli cabinet minister over the pullout for this reason. He told President Bush that he disagreed with the Road Map, which called for a democratic Palestinian state by 2005.

If the Palestinian Arabs had a sovereign state west of the Jordan River, Israel would have less right to reinvade the territories after attacks, not more, as has been argued. Once the Palestinian Arab State were recognized by the United Nations, the state would not be held more accountable for terrorism emanating from its borders. Rather, it would deny culpability and pay lip service to condemning the “acts of extremists,” probably adding, “on both sides.” It would make empty pledges of rooting out terrorists, but would do little more than the PA’s current “revolving-door policy” to actually stop them. The new state would use its sovereign nation status to defend itself against Israeli incursions in the eyes of the world. The illusion of a “cycle of violence” would be easily recreated, and Israel would once again be viewed as the aggressor. Only this time it would be invading a sovereign state, not territory it legally controlled.

For the same reasons, Israel would not be able to keep the area from becoming a terrorist state. The Jerusalem Post has already reported that terrorists from out of Israel are being invited to Gaza. With no Israeli force to counterbalance terrorists in a place like Gaza, these organizations would be allowed to operate freely and flourish.

This was the stated reason for former Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation. He contended that Israel’s intention to build the Arabs a seaport in Gaza would ensure unimpeded shipments of banned weapons into the territories. Giving up control of the Philadelphi Corridor to Egypt would only ensure more weapons and violence emanating from Gaza.

In regards to defusing the “demographic bomb,” a Palestinian Arab state would be able to extend the right of return to those they consider “Palestinians” living abroad, thereby increasing the number of Palestinians in these territories. A Palestinian Arab state with a greater number of Arabs than there are Jews living in Israel would pose severe risks to Israel’s security. The larger their population, the harder it would be for Israel to defend against them. Also, as the Palestinian Arab population grew, so would joblessness in their territories. Palestinian Arabs would then spill into Israel for innocent economic purposes, and ultimately Israel would face a worsened version of the demographic problem the new Palestinian Arab State was supposed to solve.

People have a natural right to tax themselves, run their own lives, and elect their own representatives. But regional or local Palestinian Arab governments, even if linked to each other as some sort of confederacy, would easily satisfy these rights without conflicting with Israel’s security concerns. Even if Gaza and the West Bank were annexed, Palestinians could operate in Israel under a separate nation status, as Native Americans have been assigned in the United States. When Native Americans sue a state for land so that they can build a casino, they may leave state gambling laws behind, but they do not become their own country.

Even under Oslo, then-Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin never dreamt of creating a separate, sovereign Palestinian Arab state. In his last policy address to the Knesset, on October 5, 1995, before the vote to ratify the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement, Rabin said: “We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel, which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity that will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority.”

So while proponents of the pullout continue to wave demographics like the national flag as an excuse to cut up the country they purport, as patriots, to love—and divide the Jewish people in the process—the demographic as well as the moral imperatives to create a Palestinian state simply do not exist. The Palestinian Arab right to a state is in reality the right to keep Jews out, to furnish hatred against Jews, to build an army, import weapons, have terror organizations operate freely, grow demographically, and ultimately carry out the PLO national vision—a Middle East without Israel. This is why a Palestinian Arab state is incompatible with an Israeli state. In the end, there are no easy outs. Terrorism is a problem that Israel must face head-on, even with a hostile world audience rooting against her.

This article was originally published in The College Zionist (Winter 2005), a publication of the Zionist Organization of America.