The nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things... constitute
this soul or spiritual principle. One is the possession in common of a rich
legacy of memories; the other is present-day consent, the desire to live
together, the will to perpetuate the value of the heritage that one has
received. – Ernest Renan, What is a Nation?
A portion of mankind... united among
themselves by common sympathies which do not exist between them and any others –
which make them cooperate with each other more willingly than with other people,
desire to be under the same government, and desire that it should be government
by themselves or a portion of themselves exclusively. – John Stuart Mill, On
Yes, I know I have cited these excerpts before. Last
March to be exact – see “The New York Times versus the Jews” and “Israel’s
imperative: Jewish and democratic.” The difference is that then, I
harnessed them to debunk far-left anti-Zionist calls for a one-state approach to
the Israel- Palestinian conflict. Now it appears I have to invoke them to debunk
rightwing proposals, which call for almost exactly the same thing.
I realize this article will win me few new friends – and will in all
likelihood lose me a fair number of old ones. However, the issues are so fateful
and the ideas being bandied about to contend with them so lethally ludicrous,
that the constraints of courtesy must be shed.
This is not a time for
pussyfooting around the points of dispute. For some the proposals being raised
by people I hold in high regard are so potentially disastrous, they must be
removed forthwith from the agenda, before they have a chance to wreak the
massive damage they are capable of.
One might be excused for believing we
have arrived at the “End of times” when we see such far-reaching meeting of
minds between rabid anti-Zionists on the radical Left and the fervent
pro-Zionists on the hawkish Right.
When Omar Barghouti, who spearheads
the anti-Israel boycotts, divestment and sanctions drive, and Tzipi Hotovely,
one of the leading hardliners in the Likud, largely agree on the principle of
one-state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, and differ only on the
particulars of the characteristics that state should have, who can be blamed for
believing the we have arrived at the era when “the wolf lives with the lamb, the
leopard lies down with the goat.”Accelerating absurdity
But this absurd
situation is emerging before our very eyes – at an accelerated pace in recent
weeks – when stalwart Zionists such as Hotovely, Yoram Ettinger, Caroline Glick
and Uri Elitzur began to embrace a one-state future and the granting of
citizenship to the Palestinian Arabs in Judea-Samaria.
So while I might
have chosen a less abrasive title for the column, I really need to catch reader
attention, even if this means incurring the ire of some of my (genuinely)
Given the growing realization that the two-state
approach has proved unfeasible in practice, and unacceptable in principle, the
underlying rationale behind the growing acceptance of – or rather, resignation
to – Palestinian inclusive “onestatism” appears to be rooted in three factors:
(a) A dawning awareness that the status quo cannot be maintained indefinitely
and some move toward a permanent resolution of the situation in Judea-Samaria is
needed. Thus, Hotovely in an interview this week: “It makes no sense to leave
this in the air for 45 years. [This] sends a message that we have no connection
to these places.”
(b) A sense that the threat of international sanctions,
particularly by the EU, is looming ever larger – first against the Jewish
communities in Judea-Samaria and later against the rest of Israel. Thus,
Hotovely warned that if there is no sign that the status quo will be changed,
“we will pay the price through pressure and boycotts.”
(c) Adopting the
optimistic demographic assessments spearheaded by the indefatigable Yoram
Ettinger and based on studies by the American-Israel Demographic Research Group
and Dr. Yakov Faitelson, which indicate that changes in prevailing trends ensure
a Jewish majority between the Jordan and the Mediterranean for the foreseeable
future.Not merely demographic arithmetic
But even if one concedes the
essential validity of these points, it does little to make the conclusions now
being drawn by leading opponents of the two-state solution (TSS) to embrace a
Palestinianinclusive one-state solution (PIOSS) any less catastrophic. For the
problem is not merely one of “demographic arithmetic.”
One-staters – both
on the Right and the Left – seem to miss the point when it comes to the essence
of nationhood. A nation is more than a random amalgam of individuals, bound by
no more than the accident of their current geographical location. As the opening
excerpts from the works of leading liberal philosophers regarding the nature of
nations, nationality and nationalism indicate, the most essential element of
nationhood is a sense of fellow-feeling.
This is particularly true if one
wishes to maintain democratic governance and free institutions. As John Stuart
Mill cautions, without such fellow-feeling, “Free institutions are next to
impossible... [and] the united public opinion, necessary to the working
of representative government, cannot exist.”
Mill identifies the
strongest components of this indispensable fellow-feeling as an “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.”Intolerable
Now take one given “incident in the past” – say the 1948
For Jewish Israelis this is a source of “pride” and
“pleasure”; for the Arabs “humiliation” and “regret.”
Note this is not a
marginal incident but a seminal event in the collective memory of the two
groups. It is but one example of the dichotomous divide in antithetical
attitudes that Jews and Arabs have in relation to a host of socio-cultural
issues in the past and the present.
In light of such stark
ethno-nationalist discordance, can anyone seriously propose a stable,
functioning state, unless one group has overwhelming numerical dominance of the
other? As the relative sizes of the discordant groups converge – even if the
dominant one maintains its (dwindling) majority – the internal situation will
become increasingly unmanageable, especially if there are large disparities in
their socioeconomic conditions.
Once the Arab population of Judea-
Samaria – or even a sizable portion thereof – is incorporated into Israel,
massive resources will be required to address yawning gaps between the societies
on either side of the 1967 Green Line in virtually every walk of life – in the
status of women, law enforcement, welfare services, road safety, education and
Economically, joining the two populations in common
citizenship would catapult Israel backwards from the status of a developed
nation to a “developing” one, jeopardizing its membership in the OECD, and,
insensitive souls might claim, moving it from a post-modern society to a
pre-modern one – with all the attendant repercussions for Jewish emigration
So even if the most optimistic demographic prognoses are
correct, providing the Arabs of Judea and Samaria with full citizenship would
place an intolerable socioeconomic and cultural burden on the country which
would make things untenable – even if a formal Jewish majority could be
Let me be clear. I commend Ettinger,
Faitelson and their colleagues for their work, in persuasively showing that the
demographic problem is less daunting and immediate than mainstream pundits would
have us believe. However, their efforts, admirable as they are, do not imply
that the demographic threat no longer exists, merely that there is time to deal
with it in a measured manner.
Their findings do not make a PIOSS a viable
political configuration that can sustain Israel as the nation-state of the
Jewish people for more than a few decades, at the outside.
are other figures that paint a far more ominous picture.
According to the
Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel’s Muslim population has almost doubled, as
the proportion of the population, since independence – from just over 9 percent
in 1949 to over 17% in 2011. The ratio of Jews to Muslims plunged from over 9
Jews to every Muslim to less than 4.5.
It should be recalled that this
dismal decline was recorded despite the massive influx of immigrants from the
former Soviet Union, without which the country’s demographic position would be
Now if we were, as per the PIOSS advocates, to
enfranchise the Arab population of Judea-Samaria, the percentage of Muslims in
the overall population would climb to 30%-40%, depending on whose figures one
cares to adopt. The ratio of Jews to Muslims would plummet to just over 2 or
Clearly the creation of such a large enfranchised minority –
particularly if it is inherently adversarial to the majority – creates a whole
new ball game, both domestically and abroad.No hope for ‘Hatikva’?
implications of these trends – even at a greatly decelerated pace – are as clear
as they are calamitous for the future of the Jewish nation-state.
as the Jews comprise an overwhelming majority there is valid rationale for the
existence of an entire range of elements that characterize the conduct of
national and public life in the country, such as the Star of David on the flag;
the menorah as the state emblem; the words of the national anthem that refer to
the “yearning of the Jewish soul”; and the status of Hebrew as the dominant
vehicle of communication among the citizens.
The same is true for
“Judeo-centric” legislation such as the Law of Return granting any Jew immediate
citizenship on immigrating to Israel.
However, as the non-Jewish
proportion of the population rises, the justification for this is undermined.
Indeed, it would be naïve to believe that this situation could be sustained.
When non-Jewish minorities approach 30% and more, the logic for replacing
“Hatikva” as the national anthem, in favor of a more inclusive composition, more
representative of sentiments of other segments of the population, becomes
difficult to resist.
A recent study published by the University of Haifa
leaves little room for optimism. It found that a majority of Israeli Arabs would
feel justified in launching an intifada as a means to improve their situation.
Fewer than half felt that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish, democratic
state, down from 65% in 2003. Almost half thought a Palestinian state would
someday replace Israel, (up from 19% in 2003). Some 82% blame Jews for the
“Nakba,” or national Palestinian catastrophe in the wake of the 1948
Now imagine how these findings would be impacted by more than
doubling the enfranchised Arab population in the land. Indeed, Hotovely might
well want to reconsider her statement that offering citizenship to Palestinian
Authority Arabs would be “a small price to pay for ending the status quo which
brings international criticism of Israel.”The hard, cold truth
even if their estimates are 100% correct, PIOSS advocates are “whistling the
dark.” I have merely scratched the surface in cataloging the drawbacks of their
perilous prescription. Indeed, the only thing more dangerous, delusional and
disastrous than the Left’s TSS proposals, are the ones now being now bandied
about by the Right.
The hard, cold truth is: To survive as the
nation-state of the Jews, Israel must adequately address two imperatives:
geographic and demographic.
While old school two-staters are willing to
imperil Israel geographically to address the demographic imperative, budding
one-staters are prepared to jeopardize it demographically to address the
The only paradigm that addresses these imperatives
simultaneously is one that entails a reduction of Arab presence west of the
Jordan. The most plausible – arguably, the only – noncoercive manner to achieve
this is by inducing economically incentivized emigration – as I have argued in
If Israel cannot produce leadership that understands
this, and has the capacity to implement it, the days of the Zionist enterprise
are numbered, and there is no hope of sustaining Israel as the nationstate of
Jewish people beyond a few decades.Martin Sherman
(www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the
Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategic-israel.org)