One of the most effective ways for an expansionist state to annex territory
conquered by its armed forces is to populate it with its own people. That is
what Israel seems to be doing in the West Bank: Performing a demographic fait
accompli in which the number of Jewish inhabitants eventually may equal or even
outnumber the Palestinians there.
This technique is termed unacceptable
by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Its stand was prompted by the situation
that occurred during World War II in which Nazi Germany sent its nationals,
known as volksdeutsche
, to settle in occupied Poland as a prelude to Poland’s
Germanization and eventual annexation.
However, its applicability to the
post-Six Day War situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was deemed
inappropriate by the Israeli authorities. One of the postwar deputy directors of
the Foreign Ministry, Shlomo Hillel, maintained in mid-1967 that the West Bank
was taken from a power that had no right to control it – the Hashemite Kingdom
of Jordan – and not from a state whose possession of it was accepted
In fact, the United Kingdom and Pakistan were the only
two countries that recognized Jordan’s annexation (implemented in
The usual count of Jewish settlers living beyond the socalled
Green Line – a journalistic synonym for the armistice line that existed from
1949 to 1967 – is 350,000. But Michael Freund, who served as an aide to Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his first administration (from 1996 to 1999)
put their number in a recent Jerusalem Post column at more than
He calculated that one out of every 10 Jewish Israelis now lives
on territory taken in the Six Day War.
Freund also pointed out that the
West Bank’s Jewish population is increasing by 4.3 percent annually – double the
rate in ante bellum Israel. The West Bank’s Palestinian population is estimated
at 2.5 million.
What will the outcome of this process be? It is
inconceivable that any Israeli government (other than one dominated by the far
Left) would withdraw most if not all of those Jews who opted for life in the
West Bank (they and their supporters prefer the geographical terms, Judea and
Samaria) or that they would quietly and obediently leave if a future government
asked or ordered them to do so. On the other hand, they cannot be expected to
remain in place if their domain is situated on land allocated to a projected
The settlers operate on the principle that facts on
the ground rather than rhetoric in the international arena are making their
objective feasible, namely an enlarged State of Israel that includes the entire
West Bank (of the Jordan River).
It would be naive to contend that
Netanyahu is not on their side.
Proof of where his personal sympathies
lie could be seen in his reaction to the recent court order requiring the
evacuation of five residential buildings on Givat Haulpana in the West Bank
settlement of Beit El. After calling for the structures to be physically
transferred to a military site a few kilometers away, Netanyahu vowed that more
than 800 apartments would be built for future settlers elsewhere in the West
Those who reject this evidence of his pro-settlement orientation
probably would cite the commitment he made to the long-pending and tactically
unattainable “two-state solution” to the regional conflict. The willingness he
declared in a watershed speech three years ago at Bar-Ilan University to make
the requisite territorial concessions in favor of the Palestinians already had
been rendered irrelevant four years beforehand when the Gaza Strip came under
the control of the Islamic Hamas organization in 2005. Therefore, to put it
bluntly, it was the Hamas regime in Gaza that pulled the carpet out from under
those who insisted on the renewal of negotiations between the Palestinian
National Authority (its official name) and the State of Israel.
third of the territory and population previously earmarked for the Palestinian
state no longer was on the bargaining table, and will not be on it as long as
Hamas remains in power.
This political conundrum plays into the hands of
those who fervently believe that “the whole Land of Israel” can be reconstituted
– if only there is no slowdown in the influx of Jewish settlers.
there seem to be any fiscal restraints insofar as the incumbent government’s
support of the settlement movement is concerned.
Despite the lack of a
precise count by the officials involved in subsidizing new settlements and
maintaining those that already exist, one of the best-informed estimates puts
the financial largesse of the incumbent Likud government and its predecessors at
more than $8 billion. Add to this the cost of providing the requisite security
by stationing troops and keeping armored vehicles in the area at all
The overriding question is how long this strange combination of a
camouflaged national objective and a diplomatic stance that purports to welcome
give-and-take terms for a mutually acceptable and beneficial agreement can
It is daunting to realize that the status quo in which Israel
appears to have the trump cards and the Palestinians appear to be the perenniel
underdogs has lasted for more than 45 years. Few if any regions of the world
have been so inept at problem-solving as has this part of the Middle East. There
is reason to suspect that perpetuation of unsolved problems combined with a
strange ability to act as if the parties involved were leading normal lives
despite them is a unique talent possessed by Jews and Arabs – as if it were part
of their common Semitic heritage.
In fact, both the Jews and the Arabs
also have the ability to thrive economically in the midst of constant political
If this indeed is the case, it is high time that the two
adversaries abandoned their fatalistic and self-delusive mentality and made a
common effort to achieve genuine and enlightened coexistence. One way to achieve
this goal is to put much more emphasis on the cultural links between them. This
should start with a serious effort on the part of Israel’s Jews to master the
Arabic language and thereby be able to communicate directly freely and directly
with their Arab counterparts. This cultural rapprochement would also enable them
to delve into Arabic literature and learn the history of the
Concurrently, there should be an uninhibited effort on the part of
the West Bank’s Arabs to go beyond their practical familiarity with spoken
Hebrew so that they can appreciate the scope of Hebraic culture from biblical
times to the contemporary era.
There is ample evidence that the two
nationalities can work together and concurrently benefit from social
interaction. This ability should be exploited as a mechanism for cooperation in
all fields of human endeavor, from the most advanced scientific institutions and
finest hospitals and medical facilities, to the up-to-date industrial
establishments that exist in this country.
Artificial and often disguised
impediments to the entry of qualified Israeli (and West Bank) Arabs into the job
market should be removed. The participation of Arab citizens of Israel in the
civil service should be made commensurate with their proportion of the
population instead of being kept at the shameful average of between 2 and 6
percent today (depending on the ministry involved).
Regardless of what
political framework may be most suitable for each nationality, there should be a
common awareness that they have been destined to coexist side by side in the
same country. And since that is the reality, there should be a concerted attempt
by everyone involved or affected to transform this situation into one that is
truly beneficial to both peoples – Jews and Arabs.
PS – that is why the
newly launched campaign on Israel TV aimed at encouraging Jewish Israeli
employers to hire qualified Israeli Arab citizens is one of the most laudable
and constructive measures ever taken toward what should be a common goal:
Jerusalem Post Annual Conference. Buy it now, Special offer. Come meet Israel's top leaders