The Israeli public understands that there is not, and will likely never be, a partner for peace among Palestinian Arabs. Thus, the question arises what to do about the West Bank and east Jerusalem Arab populations. Reconquering and annexing the West Bank has been ruled out for demographic reasons. Various plans to transfer the Arab population have been rejected: no other country is willing to negotiate a population transfer treaty with Israel; and the Israeli Jewish population flatly rejects the notion of forced transfer. The primary solution proposed is one apparently opposed by a significant majority of Israelis -- another unilateral withdrawal.
Robert S. BarnesRobert S. Barnes, a computer programmer, made <I>Aliyah</I> in 1996 and served in the IDF as a "lone soldier".
However, there is a practical alternative, which would neither force anyone from their homes nor violate the civil rights of any Jew or Arab.
False Assumptions About Demographics
First, the often-cited numbers, supposedly justifying the need for a quick demographic fix, are based on falsified Palestinian Authority data. According to a "path breaking study" by analysts Bennett Zimmerman, Roberta Seid and Michael L. Wise, "The Million Person Gap", published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, a 67% Jewish majority currently resides in pre-1967 Israel and the West Bank. After adjusting for Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) errors, the study states, "the Arab population in the Territories at mid-year 2004 was calculated at 2.49 million rather than the 3.83 million reported by the PCBS - a gap of 1.34 million persons."
Furthermore, data presented by Zimmerman, Seid and Wise in "Population Forecast for Israel and West Bank 2025" demonstrate that if current Jewish and Arab fertility trends continue, Jewish immigration reaches 50,000 per year, and Israeli and West Bank Arab emigration reach 10,000 and 20,000 a year, respectively, then the current 67% Jewish majority in pre-'67 Israel plus the West Bank would actually rise to 71% by 2025.
Desire Among West Bank Arabs for a Way Out
Second, a poll of West Bank Arabs aged 17 and over, conducted by the Maagar Mochot firm and The Palestinian Center for Public Opinion under Dr. Nabil Kokli's management, astonishingly found that
...according to a representative sample of the adult population in Judea and Samaria, over 40% [of the] respondents have considered emigrating permanently to some other country. Furthermore, only 15% stated that that... no inducement... could prompt them to leave their present place of residence permanently. By contrast, 70% identified some form of material measure, translatable into monetary terms (such as accommodation, education, financial compensation and so on), that could bring them to emigrate permanently.Moreover, the study found that 17% of individuals over age 17 would emigrate abroad immediately if they had the resources to do so. Including those under age 17 who would emigrate brings total potential immediate emigrants to about 23%.
A Practical Alternative
Israel runs a government Ministry of Immigrant Absorption dedicated to aiding Jewish immigrants to Israel. The state should also establish an "Emigrant Aid Ministry" or "Emigration Agency" to provide parallel assistance to non-Jews wishing to leave Israel or the West Bank. A Dahaf Institute poll conducted on behalf of Madar, the Palestinian Center for Israel Studies, found that 59% of Israeli Jews felt that the state should encourage Arabs to emigrate.
The immediate question is whether such a strategy could practically replace unilateral withdrawal in order to resolve the demographic issue.
Would It Be an Effective Answer to the Demographic Problem?
By taking scenarios presented by Zimmerman, Seid and Wise in "Population Forecast for Israel and West Bank 2025" and increasing West Bank Arab emigration to an average of 50,000 annually starting in 2006, a number of realistic scenarios emerge in which the Israeli and West Bank Jewish population could increase to approximately 75% of the total by 2025, thus allowing Israel to end the conflict by annexing the West Bank, yet maintaining the state's Jewish and democratic nature.
Assuming a near-term bulge in emigrants of 100,000 annually for the first three to four years, as individuals having expressed explicit desire to emigrate do so, the long-term demographic situation becomes even more favorable from a Jewish perspective.
Long term, the effect of Arab emigration would be even more pronounced if it created a "birth dearth" situation, in which most emigrants tended to be of child-bearing age, young singles or families with a few small children, as happened with Lebanese migration. Thus, encouraging an already-strong Arab emigration trend would provide an important part of a viable long-term answer to the demographic problem.
Where Would They Go?
For any emigration plan to work, the Israeli government must be able to execute it unilaterally, with the full consent of emigrants. This proposal hinges not on coerced mass emigration, but on individuals and families freely and willingly immigrating to other countries through normal, legal immigration channels. Migration statistics provided by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reveal that millions of legal immigration slots are available in countries worldwide.
Religious- and ethnic-based quotas, such as the infamous anti-Jewish quotas of the 1930s, are a thing of the past. Today, democratic nations generally govern admission of legal immigrants with more or less impartial and non-discriminatory regulations. Other types of quotas, such as country-of-origin quotas, are unlikely to be problematic: 50,000 emigrants annually averages out to only 2,500 immigrants to each of 20 countries. Educational level apparently does not materially affect the ability to successfully immigrate. Only 320,000 out of 895,000 Lebanese emigrants from 1975 to 1990 had either a higher education or specific labor skills.
The Economic Cost to Israel
The final cost of the Gaza Disengagement, estimated at 10-11 billion shekels, would translate to about 100 billion shekels for a similar West Bank Disengagement. The International Monetary Fund reports that the original Disengagement budget was about five billion shekels, or 1% of Israel's projected 2005 GDP, spread over a three-year period. Assuming that the original estimate was acceptable and was expected to have minimal economic impact, then a 1.6 billion shekel annual outlay could be considered a reasonable base budget for an Emigration Ministry.
Assuming an average emigrant family unit of five (two parents and three children), this would provide a budget per family of 160,000 shekels or about US$34,000, including administrative overhead. Assuming an administrative cost of 4.95% would leave $32,700 for direct aid to each family. Deducting average travel costs of $500 per person, based on current one-way international airfares, would leave $30,200 in aid for a five-person family.
In the West Bank, 2005 estimated per capita income was approximately $1,000. For the average West Bank Arab family, the aforementioned grant would constitute nearly 30 years' income. In most Second and Third World countries, this grant would sufficiently cover a family's living expense for several years. Even in the First-World USA, it could cover expenses for 2-3 years in inexpensive regions like the Mid-West.
In comparison, some 895,000 Lebanese emigrated between 1975 and 1990 and another several hundred thousand Lebanese have emigrated since to escape conditions similar to those in the West Bank. The primary difference is that most West Bank Arabs lack the means to emigrate on their own.
To view and sign a petition calling for the implementation of this plan please go to http://www.petitiononline.com/altern1/petition.html