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 internationally.

In fact, the United Kingdom and Pakistan were the only two countries that recognized Jordan’s annexation (implemented in 1950).

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 700,000.

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 Palestinian state.

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 Bank.

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.

Nearly a 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.

Nor do 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 times.

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 persist.

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 uncertainty.

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 Arabs.

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: genuine integration.

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