The compelling advantage of the two-state format

If Israel is turned into a racist, fundamentalist state which systematically oppresses a disenfranchised Arab underclass, it will not survive, and many of its people will no longer feel motivated to risk their lives defending it.

PALESTINIANS STAND next to a wall in Bethlehem. (photo credit: REUTERS)
PALESTINIANS STAND next to a wall in Bethlehem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The argument about how many Palestinians there are in the West Bank and Gaza is contaminated by politics. The Palestinians have numerous reasons to inflate their population claims, while many on the Jewish side are no less interested to understate them. There is a well-recorded global decline in Muslim birth rates, even in Iran, and in the West Bank as well. It has a lot to do with the level of women’s education, or access to information. No surprises there.
But there are demagogic spins on our side, too. What is the big problem of the Israeli right and the settlement advocates whose real agenda is to annex the West Bank and reconstitute the “Greater Land of Israel?” It is: what to do with all those Arabs? They have no intention of granting them full civil rights, for example, the right to vote. So forget about Israeli democracy. And then forget about our ability to refute the libel that our situation here and apartheid are identical. The difference between them would be eroded to insignificance if we officially swallowed millions of Arabs while denying them political and civil rights.
How to solve this problem? Some on Israel’s right say bluntly: population transfer. Ship them out. Make their lives in Israel as unbearable as possible, through systematic discrimination, impoverishment and expropriation. Symbolically, I notice that the acronym for that is “D.I.E.”. Some sugar-coat it and speak of compensations and incentive programs, in effect to bribe Palestinians to abandon the land. A few extremists, recognizing the low probability of success with that approach, speak openly of forced transfer in the wake of a future conflict, and even recall the Biblical accounts of Joshua’s conquest of the Land of Israel. (By the way, in the Biblical text, that conquest was only partial in its success and made extensive use of genocide.)
More moderate right-wingers recognize the problem, and some minimize its extent by way of these demographic arguments. If only they can convince themselves – they convince no one else – that the Palestinians are actually melting away, while the Jews are multiplying rapidly, the problem will eventually solve itself. But these are wishes and fantasies, not reality. (The biggest input to high Jewish fertility is that part of the Jewish population, the ultra-Orthodox, that is least interested in participating in Israeli society.)
So what if the Arabs west of the Jordan do not outnumber the Jews today? And what if the Jews can maintain a majority, say 55-45, or even an unlikely 60-40? Does that make it acceptable, or wise in terms of our self-interest, to perpetuate the domination of a minority as large as 40 or 45 percent, a very significant portion of which regard themselves as occupied and therefore perceive resistance to be legitimate? Power-sharing with minorities as large as that is a nightmare, even when everyone is observing the rules of the democratic game. And when they are not, and when the larger group monopolizes the benefits of the political and economic systems, the results are volatile.
This is a formula – a virtual guarantee – for catastrophe for both peoples, for unending civil war, horror and misery, and for Israel’s total international isolation.
Any version of the one-state solution – whether the antagonistic one proposed by the Arabs and their supporters, or the delusional megalomaniac one proposed by some supposed Jewish patriots – is a disaster which dooms the existence of the one Jewish state we do have. People who love and care about Israel must understand that.
There are two separate nations in this tiny area, and neither is leaving. Their relative size in numbers, a few more or less, makes no difference. The demographic issue is a red herring. The only way out of this, and it gets more complicated every day because of our self-destructive settlement-obsession, is two states. Maybe someday, after living in peace and security next to one another, they could even learn to co-operate normally.
Meanwhile, in order to maintain a Jewish state, we must achieve separation from the Palestinians, while preserving our essential security interests. That is our strategic necessity, and it is unquestionably hard to do. I have no illusions about the intentions of the Palestinians. Enforcing demilitarization, controlling violent dissident groups, protecting our vulnerable population concentration in the center of the country and our main international airport are all very difficult challenges. It is foolish and irresponsible to pretend otherwise.
The compelling advantage of the two-state format is that it is the only way to avoid the submersion and loss of our Jewish state by its distortion into a grotesque caricature of the kind of society we can live in. There is no security solution which can ignore that. Defense which degrades and decays what it is supposed to be defending is tragic folly. No amount of walls, military capability, and efficient subjugation of Arab residents could save Israel from degenerating into a society which betrays our heritage, our need for freedom and democracy in our lives and the entire ethos of modern Zionism.
I recently observed the 38th anniversary of my aliya to Israel. I have raised four sons here. I and they have all served honorably in our army. If Israel is turned into a racist, fundamentalist state which systematically oppresses a disenfranchised Arab underclass, it will not survive, and many of its people will no longer feel motivated to risk their lives defending it.

The writer, a resident of Ra’anana originally from Montreal, has been living here since 1976.