According to a recent article in the Atlantic, 50% of the people living in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza are of Jewish descent. As the numbers keep changing, people of Jewish descent living in these areas will be the minority, while people of Arab descent will become the majority. The growing Arab majority will cause problems for the continued existence of a Jewish state in the region, further amplifying serious social and security concerns.
The future of the situation hinges on whether Israel wishes to deal with identifiable and predictable consequences in the present or unidentifiable and unpredictable consequences of the future.
In the Atlantic article, a Hebrew University professor named Sergio DellaPergola offered a sentiment that Israel would have to choose between three possibilities: 1) be a Jewish state, 2) be a democracy, or 3) possess all of its historical territory. It cannot have all three.
Given other examples of countries that have a ruling minority and an opposing constituent majority, such as Bahrain, it would seem logical for Israel to give up its historical territory in favor of maintaining a democratic Jewish state. It is foolish for Israel to desire to control a territory where it does not have a majority, while its sworn enemy is in fact the majority. The historically violent tensions between Israel and Palestine are too great to believe that an Israeli minority ruling a Palestinian majority would not give everyone a headache.
This map details the changes in Palestinian loss of land from 1946 to 2000.
The 1967 borders are displayed in the “stage 3” part of the map. Many supporters of Israel adamantly do not want this on the table due to security concerns. But one must ask, is it more practical to deal with a predictable/identifiable threat than to ignore the possibility of creating an even greater one? By allowing the Palestinians to have complete and utter control over Gaza and the West Bank, Israel can focus on how to address its security concerns without having the anxiety of how to handle a growing majority of stateless Arabs in the West Bank.
These stateless Arabs would be denied basic civil rights, such as the right to vote. Israel could not hope to maintain dominion over a stateless Arab majority without encouraging further sympathy for the Palestinian cause by other nations in the Middle East. This sympathy could easily turn into aggression and Israel’s security concerns about protecting its borders would become realities, putting its Iron Dome system to the test again. Once the people of Jewish descent lose the majority, it will be harder and harder for Israel to remain a Jewish state. This key trait keeps Israel strong, united, and connected to its roots. The disappearance of this characteristic could be catastrophic, spurring further negative consequences.
The leverage is currently in Israel’s favor because it ultimately decides how the situation will unfold. But it will not remain like this forever. Israel should act now, while it still has the ability to make decisions without the immediate possibility of harsh consequences. If Israel acts now, it will be seen as a pro-active, good faith recognition of the changing landscape in the region. There is not a simple way to stop the changing population densities, much like the situation in the U.S. where Latinos will eventually hold a majority. The immigration policies in discussions now are attempts to pro-actively deal with the coming situation based on projections. We know it is coming and we are attempting to set things up before it happens.
Both Palestinians and Israelis believe that they are destined and entitled to control the land of the region. The existence of two states is absolutely necessary, for the future of both sides. This is the best time to figure out a way forward, while the changes are happening. It would be foolish to wait until after the changes have occurred to address them.