Palestinian Objective: Inheriting the Zionist Success?
By Yisrael Ne'eman
What does the Palestinian national movement as represented by the Palestinian Authority (PA) truly want in its negotiations with the State of Israel? Despite continuing discussions of a two-state solution it appears they would prefer one bi-national state. A one state solution will award Palestinians with citizenship and inheritance of the economic benefits of living in the State of Israel, all this despite complaints by Israeli Arabs (or "Palestinian Arabs with Israeli citizenship" as they call themselves) of lack of economic success and mobility. In a short amount of time Arabs living from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River will be a majority and may even be so today should we include the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip. If not, then if we just wait for a few years from now, Jews will be the minority. In any case the demographic tipping point appears to be on the way.
The Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as the Jewish State in the ethnic/national sense. Such denial not only infers their unwillingness to accept Jewish nationalism as legitimate but makes clear their future intentions and policies, that of turning Israel into an Arab State with a Jewish minority. Here we return to the Jewish National Home idea as expressed in the Balfour Declaration and the internationally accepted British administered Palestine Mandate. Viewing the moderate secular Arab perspective this is as far as any were willing to go, full Jewish sovereignty will not be recognized nor does Israel have agreements with the Arab world recognizing her as a Jewish State. The Palestinians see no reason to do so and are aware that demography is on their side.
The overall Palestinian perspective is two-pronged – exploit Israeli democracy and economic development to the fullest and eliminate the Jewish/Zionist character of the state. The best example is the theoretical issue of land swaps between Israel and a future Palestinian Arab State in the Wadi Ara region. Umm el-Fahm is an Israeli Arab city of several tens of thousands bordering the West Bank. Over the past decade or so city residents consistently vote for the Islamic Front (akin to Hamas in Israel but a bit more circumspect, as they remain within all legal frameworks). When polled on several occasions as to whether they would prefer living in the future Palestinian State or in Israel, on average some 90% say they would not want a land swap putting them in a Palestinian State where their full national rights would be embodied in all state symbols, authorities and functions.
Over the years PA Chairman Yasir Arafat consistently said "No" or refused to present plans for the implementation of a two-state solution. Full Palestinian refugee return to Israel was always a condition with no compromise in sight. Today's President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is a traditional Fatah functionary who may be more refined in his approach, but he holds to the same line both as concerns refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish State and as it appears concerning refugee return. According to UN Res. 194 (Dec. 1948) refugees can return provided "they live at peace with their neighbors" or they can be paid "compensation". The Palestinians are the only people with permanent refugee status (not two years like all others) that can be passed down onto the furthest generations. No one else has the right to such an eternal internationally recognized status.
As far as the traditional Fatah stalwarts are concerned, they are waiting as time is on their side. They have a point. Much more western oriented and secular, PM Salam Fayyad at least publicly advocates a two-state solution. This may be only for tactical reasons to gain western support, but should such an approach fail he too might decide to let everything slide into a one state solution.
The Palestinians are no fools, they see a sweeping demographic Jerusalemization of Israel in general. Jerusalem has over 35% Arabs whereas in 1967 there were less than 25%. Add into that the haredi or ultra-orthodox residents, most of whom do not support, or are in outright opposition to the secular, non-halachic Jewish State and the majority of Jerusalem's population object or are indifferent to the continued existence of a Jewish and democratic State of Israel with or without its imperfections. We can now extrapolate to the State of Israel as a whole. When we add some 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians and 1.5 million "Palestinians with Israeli citizenship" we arrive at four million. The word on the street (the suggestion is to speak with Arabs living in Israel or the West Bank) is that the average Arab prefers a one-state bi-national solution.
On the political diplomatic side one can scream forever about Israeli settlements in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) but most of the hysteria originates from the West and particularly the Obama Administration as of late. The Palestinians liked nothing better than the halt to all negotiations as a result of settlements, and in truth they would like nothing better than for Israel to keep up settlement activity to the point of no return, making "disentanglement" impossible. It is only a matter of time until Palestinian Arabs are the majority or close to it. Should there be no two-state solution in sight one can rest assured of continued Arab/Muslim pressure on the nations of the world and international bodies to ensure their "enfranchisement" or acquisition of full Israeli citizenship. Once upon becoming a majority (and more immediately so if one adds in Gaza's 1.5 million residents) Palestinian refugee return is assured through democratic parliamentary process.
Israel is like a pelican attempting to swallow an overly large fish. Stuck in its throat it can neither swallow nor regurgitate its catch - the pelican is far too small. Such is the Jewish State. As mentioned in these columns numerous times, western Jewry never bought into the classical Zionist idea of aliyah, if they did it was Zionism on their own terms and from afar – visits, financial, political and diplomatic support. Not to mention that Diaspora Jewish support is not what it used to be, many have distanced themselves from the Jewish State, especially the younger generation. None of this is a secret to the Palestinian leadership.
As long as the Right/Religious hold the government to a "Greater Land of Israel" policy of absorbing the entire West Bank (Judea and Samaria) in practice the Palestinians know their chances of inheriting the State of Israel and all its achievements are a distinct possibility. With a much higher birth rate than the Jewish population, why negotiate?
Just yesterday in an interview with two Channel 10 reporters Israel's supposedly hard line PM Benyamin Netanyahu explained his willingness for a two-state solution provided the Palestinians recognize Israel as a "Jewish State" and insisted that the Palestinian state-to-be is demilitarized. He too knows the demographic game is up.
And the final factor – as unpleasant as it may sound. No one knows what direction the haredi rabbis representing an estimated population of 700,000 will take. A small minority will certainly support the Palestinians while the "hardalnikim" or nationalist haredi factions will support the State of Israel as they already do. But what of those who are in the middle, the a-Zionists who sit on the fence, demand draft deferments and massive funding for yeshivas and do not actively support the state? Will they take up modern Jewish nationalism or cocoon themselves into closed communities and await Messianic salvation? Will they keep their options open while neither serving in the Israeli army nor participating in the economy? If the Arab world offers a "better deal" or one they cannot refuse they may very well abandon their tenuous alliance with the secular Jewish State and revert to being just a "religious community". In the eyes of the Arabs they will pose no threat and possibly be seen as an asset on the diplomatic front.
All this is known to the Palestinians and if allowed to they will negotiate forever. Seemingly having jettisoned the "armed struggle" it is a matter of Palestinian Arab patience awaiting the pieces to fall into place. They can then inherit a modern state structure from an adversary unvanquished on the battlefield.