Responding to Yoram Ettinger: Incentivized Emigration-Zionism Greatest Challenge?

Yoram shalom.

Let me begin by clearly stating that I am a great admirer of your sterling efforts on clarifying the demographic realities vis-à-vis the Palestinian-Arabs in Judea-Samaria, and consider your endeavor  of great value. That said, it important not to overstate its strategic significance, for while it certainly does diminish the urgency of the demographic threat, it in no way eliminates it.

This brings me your Aug 1 email, Setting the demographic challenge in the proper perspective”

Deeply disturbing statistics

While historical analogies can at time be instructive, they can just as often be perilously misleading.

It is of course true that vision and commitment have resulted in an impressive (almost inconceivable) growth of the Jewish population since Herzl and the War of Independence. However, it would be more than fanciful to count on the recurrence of such fortuitous (and as yet unforeseen) events for the foundational underpinning of Israel’s future strategy to preserve itself as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Although you say you support “uncoerced” Arab emigration, you gloss over the fact that one of seminal events that turned the demographic scales in favor of Israel was the 1948 War of Independence that precipitated a massive flight of Arabs—whether of their own volition, at the urging of their leaders or otherwise.

This resulted in the percentage of Muslim Arabs being reduced from over 50% of total population before the War, to a mere 9.5% (!) of the total population in post war Israel– see   ABSTRACT STATISTICAL OF ISRAEL 2018.


It is not easy to see such an event reoccurring today and even it is feasible, it is far more “coercive” than my proposed incentivized emigration proposal

Disturbing (continued)

Significantly—even excluding the Arab population of Judea-Samaria:

– While in 1949, Muslims comprised only 9.5% of the total population (111.5K), by  2017, this percentage had grown dramatically to almost 18% (1.561.7K)

– While in 1949 the ratio of Jews to Muslims was 9.1:1; by 2017 this had fallen to less than half to 4.2:1

– From 1949 to 2017 the total population grew by just over 7.5 times (from 1,173.9K to 8797.9K). By comparison, even with considerable Jewish immigration( “Aliya”)  the Jewish population grew by less than 6.5 times (from 1013.9K to 6554.5K). However, even without any commensurate Muslim immigration, the Muslim population grew by over 14 times (!!!) (from 111.5K to 1,561.7K)

Thus, even without the addition of the Arab population of Judea-Samaria, the Muslim population within the pre 1967 lines is fast approaching 20%(!), far beyond the levels in Europe that have fomented such socio-economic unrest. 


Unswerving advocate of Israeli sovereignty

However, to avoid false impressions, let me be unequivocally clear.  Ever since the early 1990s, I have been an unswerving advocate for extending Jewish sovereignty over the entire area from the “River to the Sea”, which I believe is indispensable for ensuring Israel’s long-term ability to survive as the Jewish  nation-state.

That said, I am equally convinced that injudicious initiatives to apply Jewish sovereignty to the territories across the pre-1967 lines, without a clear program for dramatically reducing the Arab presence, will not only impair the country’s ability to sustain its sovereignty over these areas, but will imperil Jewish sovereignty over any territory west of the Jordan—including within the pre-1967 lines!!!

For almost half-decade, when frustration and exasperation got the better of me, I have written with various degrees of acerbity, even abrasiveness, on the severe shortcoming of the more commonly aired proposals for alternatives for the two-state principle—see  What’s Wrong with The Right : Part 1 (August, 2012) &Part 2 (August, 2012); Annexing Area C: An Open Letter to Naftali Bennett (December, 2012); Brain Dead on The Right? (June, 2013 ); Sovereignty? Yes, But Look Before You Leap (January, 2014); Sovereignty? Yes, But Beware of Annexing Area C: (January, 2014); Islamizing Israel – When The Radical Left and Hard Right Concur (April, 2015).

Triumph for optimism over experience

For even given that the “benign” demographic assessment of the numbers of the Palestinian- Arabs in Judea-Samaria, Israeli society would include a recalcitrant Muslim minority of anything between 35%-40% of the permanent population. It would be a huge triumph for naïve optimism over bitter experience to believe that in such conditions it would be possible to forge anything remotely approaching a coherent and cohesive society—never mind one with a predominantly Jewish character.

Indeed, as previous elections indelibly underscored, even the enfranchised Arab population within the pre-1967 lines, by voting overwhelming for the overtly anti-Zionist Joint List, demonstrated that it unequivocally rejects the notion of Israel being a Jewish nation-state. If annexation were to not only double the permanent Muslim presence in the country, but adjoin a population indoctrinated for decades with rabid Judeophobic hatred, it is difficult to see how any form of Judeo-centric governance could be consensually administered.

Reinforced by a huge increase in numbers, anti-Israel animosity is likely to be commensurately enhanced.

To enfranchise or not to enfranchise?

Accordingly, if Israel has no program to significantly reduce the Arab presence in its sovereign territory, it will face a searing demographic dilemma. It can either (a) enfranchise the bulk of the newly annexed Arab population within a reasonable timeline; or (b) it can deny them such enfranchisement. 

If it opts for the latter, Israel will inevitably become an undeniable apartheid state—withholding political representation largely on ethnic grounds.  As such it is likely to be subjected to crippling international censure and sanctions, imperiling its ability to survive.

If it opts for the former, it will create a very real danger that the anti-Zionist elements will become the dominant political force in the country, with the Arab vote potentially reaching 25 seats—making it possibly one of the two largest parliamentary factions.

If they team up with the radical anti/post Zionist Left, its ability to advance anti-Zionist initiatives will be formidable…

Indeed, even today, elements of the political Left favor abandoning numerous elements of Israel’s essentially Judeo-centric nature. Doubling the non-Jewish (indeed often anti-Jewish) presence in the permanent population will only serve to exacerbate this danger.

The irrelevance of an initial electoral majority

The previous discussion underscores the irrelevance of a nominal post annexation electoral majority. Indeed, no less, arguably more, important is the socio-cultural ramification such a move will entail

With such a significant segment of the population not only unwilling to identify with, but viscerally opposed to, the Jewish character of the state—the flag, anthem, national symbols, structure of the calendar, conduct of public life and national ceremonies, use of Hebrew as the official vehicle of communication in commerce, academia and legal proceedings–it is entirely unclear how unmanageable frictions and alienation could be avoided.

Thus, proponents of this policy would do well to heed the warning of John Stuart: “Among a people without fellow-feeling… the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist”. In such conditions, he cautioned: Free institutions are next to impossible…”

Furthermore, implementation of a policy of annexation of land and people will inevitably induce economic and demographic dynamics distinctly detrimental to Israel’s ability to sustain itself as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Chilling effect on “Aliya”

Firstly, the need to reduce the yawning socio-economic gaps between the current Israeli population and Palestinian-Arab residents will siphon off huge budget resources, currently devoted to maintaining the standards of education, welfare, and infrastructure for the existing population—where the GDP per capita is over 15 times that of Palestinian- Arabs.

(This will also inevitably reduce the resources available to absorb the large number of immigrants (olim) that are mentioned in your email.)

Almost unavoidably then, this will result in a sharp downward spiral in quality of life in the country, which together with the socio-cultural impact of a greatly enlarged permanent Muslim presence, is likely to make Israel a far less inviting location for attracting Jewish immigration—or retaining growing segments of its existing Jewish population.

Such conditions clearly bode ill for the demographic balance in the country, irrespective of optimistic assessments of a nominal initial Jewish majority in the immediate wake of annexation.

Accordingly then, let me reiterate:

One of the greatest—indeed probably the greatest—challenge facing Zionism today is to work towards generating the political legitimacy that will enable large-scale incentivized emigration of the Arab population of Judea-Samaria (and Gaza) to third party countries. This must not be an addendum to offering them continued residence in the their current locations, subject to some as yet-to-be-devised test of loyalty (or at least, non-enmity), but as the only option to continued residence subject to phased Israeli withdrawal  of all services and provision of merchandize.


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