Monday, September 26, 2011

Demography and the Jewish State

Matthew Yglesias argues that population statistics will not compel Israel to adopt any particular policy toward the Palestinians. Here's what he foresees:
"The Israeli government will disavow any claim to sovereignty over the Gaza Strip. They’ll count on public opinion in Egypt to ensure some level of integration across the Gaza-Egypt land border, and then they’ll wash their hands of the whole thing. Nobody’s going to give West Bank Palestinians the vote (if anything, the trends in Israeli politics point toward diminished civil rights for the Palestinians who already have Israeli citizenship) but this will solve the Jewish majority problem. That, however, is just a reminder that there really is no Jewish majority problem. The problem is that the Israeli government wants to exercise sovereignty over the West Bank without granting citizenship to its Arab residents."

The idea of Palestinian cantonments in the West Bank can also be seen as an avenue by which Israel can functionally be a Jewish state while still retaining control of the Occupied Territories. Along these general lines, though, I remember that when I lived in Jerusalem from 2006-2008, I often heard assertions that the demographic argument was cooked up by Palestinians and leftists based on false premises to weaken Israeli resolve, and this was apparently a common argument in the right-wing nationalist media. I doubt this line of thinking has gone away in the past three years, and even though Prime Minister Netanyahu presumably understands the situation, a lot of Israeli public opinion will clearly never buy demography-based arguments.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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