Arab Israelis should be invited to peace talks in order to avoid future demands
by Avi Trengo
A decade ago, an Arab Israeli rebellion erupted around here, in October 2000; we don’t see it anymore, but it hasn’t disappeared. Today, the campaign is not being run via an uprising and closure of roads, but rather, through a struggle for perception. The method has changed, but the intentions have remained the same.
The de-legitimization groups do not only highlight Palestinian issues such as “the occupation” or “the borders” or “the refugees” – the propaganda campaign currently addresses the American-European mainstream, which espouses equality.
Those who pin their hopes on seeing “an end to the occupation prompting an end to the conflict and no more demands” should review the vision documents drafted by the Arab-Israeli leadership and also take a look at the (English-language) websites of “rights” groups such as Adalah and Musawa. The next battle will be over Israel’s domestic image, while presenting it as an apartheid state that deprives its minorities of rights.
Surprisingly, these leftists groups have naïve rightist partners who seek to establish a “new Israel”. Those who put their faith in the religion known as “solid Jewish majority” focus on the question of whether Israel’s Arabs will constitute 50% of the country’s citizens or “only” make up 35% of it. Meanwhile, in the center of the political spectrum we also see the emergence of a religion, known as “economic peace,” which preaches to us that economic coexistence will overcome nationalism and religious zeal.
These two abovementioned “religions” point to the growing level of education among Arab-Israeli women as an element that would blunt demographic growth. However, they ignore the Islamization trend among the young generation of Arab Israelis, who define themselves today (just like Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi) as “Palestinians carrying an Israeli ID card”.
There is a mathematical problem in the arguments presented by the “new demographers.” They focus on the “number of children per woman” (which is indeed on the decline) yet completely ignore an important parameter: The age of marriage. Muslims Israeli women wed on average seven to eight years before their Jewish counterparts. The result is that the rate of producing a new Arab Israeli generation is very fast. We can see this clearly in the sharp rise in the number of children and their relative weight within the Arab Israeli population: More than 50% of is under the age of 18.
Listen to Lieberman
Paradoxically, the improved security situation boosts the demographic threat: In the 1990s, tens of thousands of Palestinians realized the right of return via “family reunification.” The Knesset was late in closing this door – but clung to the security argument, which the High Court of Justice may annul in respect to most immigration candidates.
The Palestinians and their children who received an Israeli ID card – their number today approaches 200,000 – will contribute to the demographic imbalance. Faithful of the coexistence religion also tend to ignore the demographic weight of tens of thousands of infiltrators (Muslims, of course) from Eritrea and Sudan.
When producing any future forecast, we must take the risks into accounts, including extreme scenarios. Would it be wise to ignore the possibility that Arab Israelis will become a significant majority that demands national, cultural rights?
Ahead of a peace agreement, we saw a demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the “Jewish people’s state” as a means for preventing a “return of refugees.” Yet this isn’t enough. Arab Israelis are complaining, and rightfully so, that this move would also affect them. Any attempt to end the conflict without fully addressing their national aspirations would make the deal merely another step en route to the next struggle.
The massive purchase of land in northern communities (the funding arrives from anonymous sources abroad – according to rumors, originating in the oil states,) as well as the Bedouin demand for large parts of the Negev point to one possible continuation of the struggle: A demand to recognize the sovereignty of Palestinian citizens of Israel over extensive swaths of land in the country that will eventually join the Palestinian state.
According to right groups, the Law of Return discriminates against Arabs. Yet this is where the solution lies: As part of the Israeli recognition of Palestine as the nation-state of the Palestinian people, we should include a demand for a Palestinian “Law of Return” that would facilitate the automatic granting of Palestinian citizenship to any Arab residing in Israel today.
Just like an American Jew who wishes to realize his religious-cultural aspirations as a Jew does not do so in the US, but rather, moves to Israel, we should demand that Arab Israelis who seek national-religion rights as Palestinians shall do so by realizing their Palestinian citizenship. This would prevent any demand to change Israel’s Hebrew-Jewish character or further undermine its borders.
In order to grant validity to such demand, we cannot leave the decision on recognizing Israel as the Jewish people’s state in Mahmoud Abbas’ hands. To avoid future claims that they were not represented, Arab Israelis should join the negotiations.
Ahmad Tibi, Raed Salah, Hanin Zoabi and their colleagues are the authentic representatives of the Palestinians who were granted Israeli citizenship coincidently. With the issue of “an end to the conflict” between Israel and the entire Arab-Islamic world on the agenda, we cannot keep such large community (35% of Israel’s citizens in the future) without representation at the negotiating table.
It is actually Minister Lieberman’s UN proposal for population tradeoffs that takes the path of recognizing the national identity of Palestinians with Israeli IDs and their right to live under their own flag. Instead of urging Lieberman to quit, perhaps we should heed the principles of equality inherent in his proposal?