Facing Demographic Realities in Israel

Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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64 Responses

  1. Max says:

    You left out a couple of popular right-wing ideas:

    1. “There is no such thing as Palestine/Palestinians are actually Jordanians” and variations thereof. Under this formulation, Israel is saved from being an “apartheid state” because it is occupying and suppressing a foreign population that has a country elsewhere. This is absolution in name only (and not even name for a rational observer), but many right-wingers cling to it because it avoids their having to acknowledge….

    2. “Transfer,” also known as ethnic cleansing. The Israeli electorate as a whole is actually to the left of American Jews (at least concerning Palestine), but its far right is far more vicious than anything American Jews have produced. One of their most odious ideas/aspirations is a forced transfer of Palestinians out of the West Bank and into Jordan, a “long march” of millions of people.

    Beyond their offensive immorality, neither of these options could ever actually apply to the real world, but they are popular forms of rhetorical retreat for right-wingers.

    You are completely correct on the fundamentals, though: the right-wing has no plan whatsoever on Israel – neither here or over there. Most of them are older and actually clueless about the demography. Those that understand it…just don’t care, I guess? I’ve never really been able to figure them out, except for a sneaking suspicion that a not-small number of them would not mind an apartheid state one bit if Arabs were on the receiving end.Report

    • North in reply to Max says:

      Good points Max. I’ll toss in one other I’ve seen:

      3. “Pass the buck” The Israeli right likes to fantasize about keeping everything they have and want now in the West Bank and then handing off the seething West Bank enclaves to Jordan and Gaza to Egypt respectively and expecting those countries to absorb and pacify the Palestinians. It is pure fiction and fantasy, especially now that Egypt is moving towards Democratic rule.
      I doubt there’s enough money in all of Israel and the US combined to convince King Abdullah II to try and take that many Palestinians into his little country.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to Max says:

      Thanks, Max! You’re right, of course. Still, it means a lot to hear you suggest I have the fundamentals right, considering as my introduction to you was a situation where I most likely did not.Report

    • Max in reply to Max says:

      I want to add one more to my list. There is a certain stream of “moderate” center-right thinking (this one is more popular among Israelis than Americans in my experience) that posits a couple of things:

      a. The demographic issue is real; but
      b. There will never (really, never) be peace in the Middle East; therefore
      c. The situation vis-a-vis the Palestinians will continue to evolve unpredictably and cannot be managed, either by a two-state resolution or by any other means

      This is the nihilist-fatalist position and in some ways it is more disturbing to me even than the “transfer” people. I think Jeff Goldberg was actually moving in this direction himself – but the Arab Spring seems to have turned him around, at least for now.

      The other popular (among American Jews) purveyor of this position is Daniel Gordis, who I think directs the Shalem Center, a neoconservative stalking horse that is trying to establish itself as an Israeli answer to the generation of true believers that brought America the Iraq war.

      I have had lengthy conversations with moderately religious Jews who hold this viewpoint. It is astonishing to me that they are able to resign themselves to endless war even as they prostrate themselves on Yom Kippur to beg God for, above all else, peace in this world. I don’t think I’ll ever understand them, but in fairness I don’t think they understand themselves.Report

      • North in reply to Max says:

        Gosh I’ve never seen indication that Goldberg was moving in that direction. I haven’t been reading him for immensely long, only a few years, but he’s always been a full throated advocate of withdrawal from the settlements for as long as I’ve read him.Report

        • Mark Thompson in reply to North says:

          I seem to recall a period where he favored withdrawal mostly for it’s own sake but had concluded that even that, much less anything else, would ever make a difference in the long run.Report

        • Max in reply to North says:

          To my knowledge he has always supported withdrawal, but post-Gaza, pre-post-Mubarak, he was writing more and more often that he was not sure he believed peace was possible any longer.Report

  2. North says:

    Yeah, Goldberg is on rock solid ground here. It’s pretty much this very point that I base my own support for unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank (and military disengagement from Gaza) on. Even if the Israeli’s got nothing ~nothing!~ from the Palestinians, the US and the World in exchange for withdrawal they would still come out ahead if they withdrew unilaterally.
    Seriously consider that for a moment. When we’re talking about the peace agreement and the negotiations and the impasses that Netanyahu and the Israeli right have been overseeing (causing with an assist from the barbarians on the Palestinian side) we’re talking about the Israeli’s essentially kvetching about how much frosting they get on their cake; how much gravy on their mash.

    But of course the Israeli’s would get far from nothing for withdrawal. Just to list off the top of my head a few benefits.
    -The Palestinians lose a lot of PR cover: If the checkpoints were gone, if the occupation was over, if the world had just watched Isreal drag their settler brats (kicking and shrieking) back into Israel proper and the Palestinians had the gall to then start lobbing rockets out of the vacated territory then opinion would turn against them sharply. Consider Gaza; world opinion utterly plummeted when Hamas oversaw the bombardment that happened after the Gazan withdrawal. Palestinians were only really rescued in this sphere by the fact that Israel was still in the West Bank and the botched maneuvering of Cast Lead and the Lebanon intervention.
    -The Israeli’s would save a fortune: Those settlements are all heavily subsidized both directly through tax incentives and indirectly through military expenditures. Financially speaking getting rid of them would be like removing a gangrenous limb from their body politic.
    -The Palestinians would receive a huge boost to their moderate political wings: The current tranquility Israel is enjoying is at least partially due to a large amount of discipline imposed on the West Bank Palestinians by their own government and also due to a great deal of security co-operation. Both of these things were imposed by the moderates who took power after Arafat left. If these policies are rewarded in the eyes of the Palestinians by the removal of the loathed checkpoints and settlements in the West Bank then this would create a virtuous feedback loop to greater moderation. For the first time at long last the conditions on the ground would be favorable for winning Palestinians hearts and minds.

    Now obviously this is far from easy for the Israeli’s. The settlers and their supporters are a powerful and passionate bloc in Israel whereas those Israeli’s who oppose settlement are diffuse and low passion. It’s like ending farm subsidies in the US. A few people care a hell of a lot but most people are tuned out or apathetic (fruits of Arafat and Bibi again ironically). Politically that’s a recipe for the status quos.

    Also the West Bank withdrawal would put Palestinians in a position where even their primitive weapons (and the weapons they’d be able to sneak in) would be able to cause non-trivial damage to Israel in places that matter a lot (airports, transport hubs, large urban centers). But on the other hand Israeli’s would be in a position both in terms of morality, PR and politics to respond very emphatically to that kind of provocation (and in a competition between some rocket slingers with towels wrapped about their heads and the Israeli Artillery corps I know where I’d place my money).Report

    • Jaybird in reply to North says:

      But on the other hand Israeli’s would be in a position both in terms of morality, PR and politics to respond very emphatically to that kind of provocation

      Well of *COURSE* there are some single actors who resent the way that they were treated for decades by the Israelis. They only fired a few rockets and only a few people died.

      You’re saying that Israel would be justified in killing how many civilians over the lone actions of a few Palestinians? How many ethnic cleansings would you be okay with? How many dead babies? How many bombed marketplaces?Report

      • North in reply to Jaybird says:

        That works for the leftmost wing of your assorted polities but doesn’t wash with the vast majority of low info people in the nations you care about the opinions of.
        If it’s only scattered potshots then it’s something the Israeli’s could deal with using counter raids and simply shrugging off the hits (heavier ordinance is harder to ignore but also harder to do hit&runs with). If it gets seriously onerous they could start making rumbling of reinvading and shooing the attackers out of the launch zones. The Palestinian Government that’d result from withdrawal would have utterly massive incentives to discourage their hotheads from attacking Israel so they’d likely take notice and react. The PA in the West Bank has demonstrated an extremely good capacity and willingness to prevent rocket attacks even with the occupation going on. Those capacities and incentives would be heightened by their improved stature and motivation in the event of a withdrawal.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to North says:

          It has always seemed to me that a three-state solution would be best for everybody involved.

          Has this *EVER* been discussed?

          It seems so obvious to me that I’m wondering why no one else has ever even brought it up…Report

          • J.L. Wall in reply to Jaybird says:

            You mean separating Gaza from the West Bank, or separating the crazy settlers from the rest of Israel?Report

            • Jaybird in reply to J.L. Wall says:

              Like, the West Bank can be the West Bank, Gaza can be Gaza, and Israel can be Israel.

              Everybody talks about a two-state solution… but that seems to me to have a lot, I mean a lot a lot, of problems when it comes to culture and governance.Report

          • North in reply to Jaybird says:

            I don’t believe it has, not seriously at least. Prior to the Gaza-West Bank schism such talk would have been oppressive: dividing the Palestinians further etc etc… after the schism such talk would entail acknowledging Hamas and giving them a state (definitly not kosher).Report

          • Pub Editor in reply to Jaybird says:

            Historically, there’s the example of West Pakistan and East Pakistan (Bangladesh), which were one country when the British left in 1947 and then fought a civil war in 1970-71 (with India getting involved at the end).

            Geographically separated enclaves do not have a great history (see, e.g., East Prussia; Polish Corridor), although I suppose that Alaska and Kaliningrad are counterexamples.

            North is probably correct about the optics of the situation and about not wanting to encourage/recognize Hamas.Report

          • Max in reply to Jaybird says:

            It’s a red line for Palestinian negotiators, and the Israelis have no particular reason to want it. As I understand it, moving people back and forth between Gaza and the West Bank within a two-state framework is actually not one of the bigger challenges in the negotiations.

            That’s why you don’t hear much about it: no one has an incentive to push it, and it’s the kind of thing that makes a lot more sense on paper than in reality.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Max says:

              ’s the kind of thing that makes a lot more sense on paper than in reality.

              Do the Palestinians have so many buses left, do they? So many more helicoptors? So many more passenger jets?

              Do so many of them jump from place to place wishing that they had a better highway to take them from hither to yon?Report

  3. tom van dyke says:

    The land-for-peace equation is land-for-“right of return.” Unilateral Israeli withdrawal is land-for-nothing.

    Goldberg’s scenario [and premise] of Palestinians demanding Israeli citizenship is simply bizarre. The likely result of a unilateral withdrawal is a Palestinian quasi-state with more and better weapons with which to attack Israel, and the same “demographic” bomb miles closer to Israel’s border.

    Without “right of return” surrendered in return for land, there is no peace, just a more tactically vulnerable version of the status quo.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to tom van dyke says:

      We don’t *KNOW* that the Palestinians would necessarily attack.

      And even if they did, it’d only be a few of them rather than some concerted effort.

      And even if it was a concerted effort, it’s not like you wouldn’t do the same thing if you were Palestinian.Report

    • Goldberg’s scenario [and premise] of Palestinians demanding Israeli citizenship is simply bizarre.

      Is it?

      Ahem: http://www.neareastconsulting.com/surveys/ppp/p22/out_freq_q27.php/

      Though I have some concerns about the validity of that poll. This, however, gives a pretty good idea of where the trends are headed:

      As does this:

      Allowing the settlements to remain and/or expand will only continue to exacerbate this trend as it undermines the purpose and utility of any two-state solution.Report

      • tom van dyke in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        MarkT, swamping the Jews demographically IS the Palestinian solution.

        What I found bizarre was Goldberg offering the political tactic of petitioning to join Israel as anything but a non-starter, and absurd.

        By your own evidence, if the polls showed decisive majority support for a two-state solution, then that would indeed be a foundation for peace. But the Palestinian “right of return” was kicked down the road by President Obama, the one thing that Israel has any interest in trading territory for, and why the President’s speechifying is absurd: his mechanism is for Israel to trade land-for-nothing.Report

        • greginak in reply to tom van dyke says:

          How the hell could Obama have kicked the can down the road on the Pal right of return? That is a subject the I’s and P’s will have to negotiate some sort of solution two with no obvious answer that is mutually palatable at the moment. O shouldn’t be saying exactly what will happen, since nobody knows what the parties would settle on. They will need to get to the table to figure it out.Report

          • tom van dyke in reply to greginak says:

            Mr. Gregniak, the “right of return” isn’t even on the table. When it is, peace is possible. Not until.Report

            • greginak in reply to tom van dyke says:

              Yeah negations start out well when one side tells the other give up one of their major grievances just to get to the table. Well actually that is a way to prevent negations from happening.Report

        • What I found bizarre was Goldberg offering the political tactic of petitioning to join Israel as anything but a non-starter, and absurd.

          If the Palestinians were to petition to join Israel and Israel said “No” while simultaneously refusing to grant or recognize Palestinian statehood or at least cede the territory to Jordan and Egypt, then one would be hard-pressed to find a more appropriate word for such a situation than “apartheid.”

          By your own evidence, if the polls showed decisive majority support for a two-state solution, then that would indeed be a foundation for peace. But the polls mostly do show a decisive majority support for a two-state solution, or at the very least a clear plurality. The first poll I cite, keep in mind, does not ask whether Palestinians also support a two-state solution – one can easily support both a one-state and a two-state solution as an improvement over the status quo.

          What is important here is the trend – to the extent there is support for a two-state solution at all amongst Palestinians, that support is waning. At some point it will be off the table for them entirely, which would put Israel in an even more untenable position than it is in – on all accounts.

          But the Palestinian “right of return” was kicked down the road by President Obama, the one thing that Israel has any interest in trading territory for, and why the President’s speechifying is absurd: his mechanism is for Israel to trade land-for-nothing.

          Surely by now you’ve seen it fully documented that Obama’s statement on this was no different from things that Israel itself has been saying officially for years? At most, we’re left parsing over whether he could have said the same thing in a better way or in a different sequence. It’s all much ado over nothing.Report

          • tom van dyke in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            And if Japan had demanded to join the US while we occupied it? At least they surrendered.

            1967 was a cease-fire line, no more. Israel was attacked in 1967. Technically, the West Bank and Gaza are still part of Jordan and Egypt, I believe [tho Gaza was abandoned]. But they don’t want them back! [Israel had offered the West Bank autonomy in federation with Jordan, iirc, which would put Jordon on the hook for policing the Palestinians-on-parole. No thx, said they. They absorbed enough Palestinian refugees, to the point of almost being demographically swamped themselves.

            So yes, we can play the rhetorical “apartheid” card—Jimmy Carter already did—but there’s little precedent here on the laws and rights of nations, where you win territory in war and the loser doesn’t want it back. Can you think of any precedents?

            As for Obama, I’m not sure it’s accurate to say he was boilerplating previous positions. Israel has always demanded “right of return” be on the table as the Palestinian half of “land-for-peace.” Obama proposed some border-setting with right of return to be negotiated later.

            As for Palestinian polls on one- or two-state solutions, you have me confused now. The Palestinians are getting even more intransigent? So what? They never wanted peace in the first place, or else they’d already have it.

            If they want to sidestep Netanyahu, all they need do is say they’re prepared to resume negotiations under the Barak or Ohlmert proposals.

            In my view, Egypt’s interregnum is scary, and even Haaretz reported this year the Hezbollah in Lebanon is importing arms from Iran and may be contemplating more anti-Israel mischief. The timing is all wrong for President Obama’s initiative, if it even is one, and not mere [confusing] talk. If he was just boilerplating, he did a lousy job of it.Report

            • Max in reply to tom van dyke says:

              You are beyond ignorant. The Jordanian king struggled for decades to get the West Bank back after ’67, and never succeeded. The settlement enterprise began in earnest before 1970 and never ceased.Report

              • tom van dyke in reply to Max says:

                Please try to keep a civil tongue, sir. I wrote “iirc” and don’t mind being corrected on this minor point since it’s not fundamental to my argument.

                Further, I read that King Hussein called a federation with the West Bank “totally inconceivable” in 1974, and of course was in open war with the PLO himself. If you have some inside baseball on this, fine. But you haven’t touched my main counterarguments, nor justified Goldberg’s scenario and as anything more than idle speculation.

                As for your use of “reprehensible” and the like, Israel will not commit suicide to appease your sentiments. The occupied territories indeed voted for their leaders; Gaza—and soon Egypt—giv us clues as to what that means. And so far, it ain’t encouraging.Report

              • Max in reply to tom van dyke says:

                What on earth are you talking about? Are you trying to retroactively justify more than *40 years* of occupation based on the 2006 vote?

                Try to keep a civil sensibility and I’ll take care of my tongue. Only one of us is condemning an entire nation of people to indefinite statelessness and occupation because he can’t get his history straight.

                Read it: http://www.amazon.com/Accidental-Empire-Israel-Settlements-1967-1977/dp/0805082417/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1306366764&sr=8-1Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to tom van dyke says:

                “As for your use of “reprehensible” and the like, Israel will not commit suicide to appease your sentiments.”

                Sorry Tom, but one of the two people this exchange has a personal interest in the survival of Israel, not to mention extensive firsthand knowledge of the situation. That person is not you.

                The notion that anyone whose views on this fall to the Left of what the American Right thinks are Netanyahu’s wishes Israel to commit suicide is not only condescending but also outrageously divorced from reality.Report

              • Sorry, MarkT. I read Haaretz. Nothing new here.

                If Israel wants to jump off this cliff, I wish them luck. But I certainly defend what appears to be the majority of the Israeli people who see it as suicide, as I see it the same way.

                I presented a number of points that have been elided, one being that the Palestinians could score an effective coup for peace—and a genuine one—by agreeing to return to negotiations under the Barak or Ohlmert outlines. I believe this would enjoy the support of the Israeli majority, regardless of any protestations from Netanyahu, and this “right-wing” business and partisan proxy war would be moot.

                Why Max took aim instead at the [tangential] Jordan issue I think is because it was the only one he could counterargue. And I’m not sure I was substantively incorrect. King Hussein wanted no part of the PLO after having to fight them in the streets. Neither did Egypt ask for Gaza back either, did they?

                Nobody wants any part of them; Israel is stuck with them. Their factions even kill each other. [Not too much, admittedly, just enough to annoy each other. Still, Israel would receive no better treatment.]

                I appreciate the cordial reply, Mark, but I must ask if you think Max is excused from the rules of civility because he has the truth on his side or because he’s an Israeli [I have no idea who this “Max” is]. Regardless, I’m saying nothing that many or most Israelis don’t say. My personal place in this is completely irrelevant and it’s unfair to call me out on those grounds.Report

              • Max in reply to tom van dyke says:

                I’m not an Israeli but lived and worked there for a time. My personal investment is the same as any Jew, I have friends and family that live there and I care about them. I also have Palestinian friends and I care about them as well.

                The whole point of Mark’s original post is to illustrate the existential need for a Palestinian state. Calling the 1967 borders “suicidal”, in addition to being tactically wrong and sensational, is also a category error. The only suicidal option on the table at this juncture is not seizing on the ’67 borders.

                The rest of your arguments are irrelevant or addressed elsewhere in these comments. No one cares a whit how the ’67 borders came about or who struck first – the point is that they are what we have now, and they are what Israel is going to have to work with going forward. As Mark already pointed out, this is a widely acknowledged reality from at least the past 10 years, if not longer, by Israeli, American, and Palestinian heads of state.Report

              • You dismiss my arguments with pejoratives, Max; you do not engage them. I don’t care who or what you are, a Jew, an Israeli, a concerned bystander or an ideological warrior.

                Should you convince the people of Israel to jump over this cliff with you, I’ll respect your decision as a people, and wish you the very best of luck.

                Concern yrself with swaying them and leave me the hell out of it. Sir.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Max says:

                You know what else happened in 1970?


              • Max in reply to Jaybird says:

                And this is a niggling detail, but “transfer” as I’ve described it above didn’t happen in 1970, or 1948 for that matter. There were groups of Palestinians that were expelled from their homes (as well as groups, including Mahmoud Abbas’s family, that left of their own volition out of fear). But all of the evidence confirms that these situations were incidental, the unpredictable consequences of war. I have personally never seen anything that suggests Israel engaged in a coordinated campaign of ethnic cleansing, which is what “transfer” means.Report

              • North in reply to Max says:

                If the Israeli’s set out to “cleanse” or “transfer” Palestinians in 1970 or 1948 they didn’t do a very good job of it.Report

              • Max in reply to North says:

                That would be one way to prove it’s a spurious charge, yes.

                Luckily, the IDF is a bit more than an armed mob, and there are actual memos, diplomatic cables, orders dispatched, etc. that researchers have access to. These paint a pretty clear picture of the aftershocks of both those wars, in which above all else the IDF was improvising strategy as problems arose.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Max says:

                I wasn’t talking about Israel.

                I was talking about Jordan.

                Of course Jordan’s response was completely reasonable. You have to understand the dynamics of the country at the time. Only someone with an agenda would see Jordan’s relationship with the Palestinians as something worth comparing to Israel, after all. To be sure. Certainly.Report

    • Max in reply to tom van dyke says:

      The premise is not bizarre. Indeed there are already popular movements in Nabi Saleh, Sheikh Jarrah, and other cities and towns that are harnessing political, nonviolent power to protest Palestinians’ complete lack of human/civil rights in the West Bank. If you don’t believe they are already having the conversation about how to obtain the right to vote, you are dreaming.

      The demographic tension is not about how many humans of x ethnicity live in y place – it’s about how many humans of x ethnicity are living without the right to vote. It’s an image and international law issue, not an impending-physical-violence issue.

      A unilateral withdrawal completely solves the issue. Withdrawal is not about negotiating the “right of return” because Israel doesn’t *need* to negotiate it. Israel holds all the cards: it controls the borders and has an army leaps and bounds larger and more advanced than anything Palestinians could hope for in 100 years.

      The point of ending occupation (besides that fact that it’s unjust and morally reprehensible) is to restore Israel’s standing in the global community and solve its impending identity crisis. It has nothing to do with strategic defense. That’s what the Middle East’s most effective army, combined with it’s strategic military advantage underwritten by the world’s most powerful nation, is for.Report

      • tom van dyke in reply to Max says:

        I’m sorry, Max, IMO, it certainly is bizarre. Even if the Palestinians attempt the maneuver, Israel can withdraw then, if that’s the only solution as you see it.

        Pre-emptive surrender is how I see it, throwing away the only bargaining chip [territory and the settlements] that Israel has. The end game has always been to trade the settlements for the right of Palestinian return. [I believe Ehud Barak explicitly said so some years back.]

        In your scenario, there is no end game.Report

        • North in reply to tom van dyke says:

          Tom, if the settlements and access roads continue to grow and the Palestinians abandon the two state solution then the two state solution is dead. Israeli’s will never have the power to impose it on an unwilling Palestinian population. It’d be the same as if they tried expelling their current population of Israeli Arabs. The demographic threat is virtually the only existential threat that Israel currently faces. Even Iran with the bomb can at least be answered with a MAD style faceoff.

          The right of return on the other hand is an empty threat. Those Palestinians are not in Israel and they never will be. The Israelis will never let any large number of them return but on the same realist note of understanding no Palestinian leader could ever openly admit such a thing or concede the right of return without getting something utterly enormous in return.

          Israel is standing there clutching a ticking bomb and yelling angrily because people aren’t offering to pay them enough to discard it. This is insane. Discarding the bomb is in itself a reward for Israel; anything they got in addition to being free of said bomb is a bonus.

          John Chait put it well when he observed:
          “Their error [the Israeli right and its supporters] is in believing that this [narrowed borders] constitutes an important threat to Israel’s security. During the first quarter-century of Israel’s existence, the prospect of a massed conventional military invasion constituted the greatest threat to its existence. That’s no longer true. The greatest dangers today are the combination of demographic and political threats posed by the growing relative size of the Arab population west of the Jordan river, terrorism, and the loss of legitimacy posed by a continuing occupation and counter-terrorism policy in the West Bank and Gaza. Those dangers all dwarf the potential that armored columns of Arab armies will cut Israel in half. The tragedy is that huge swaths of the Israeli right and its sympathizers (both Jewish and Gentile) have failed to grasp this, and have placed it in danger of succumbing to the mortal new threat while guarding against the antiquated one.”

          With respect, none of your objections seems to be pertinent to the problem at have.Report

          • Mark Thompson in reply to North says:

            Right. Simply put, so long as there is no Palestinian state, the Palestinians can run out the clock for a one state solution in which they can dictate the right of return or, failing that, engage in a vicious civil war. On the other hand, the second Israel withdraws, it can run out the clock on right of return.Report

          • North in reply to North says:

            Gah.. problem at hand, that last bit should say problem at hand. Damn typo fairies.Report

  4. Burt Likko says:

    If a one-state resolution in which Jews are a demographic minority in Israel is inevitable, and Jews currently in power feel the need to protect themselves from future oppression by the government, perhaps the answer is for an Israel looking at a one-state resolution as Goldberg describes to become more like the United States.

    Specifically, I mean the Israelis need to adopt a real, written, and classically liberal constitution that incorporates a meaningful set of individual rights and protections for minority groups. Right now, Israel functions with a set of malleable “basic laws” that structure and restructure government at the political whim of whatever coalition runs the Knesset right now, and the courts do not do much to guarantee and enforce individual rights of unpopular minorities. A strong institutional judiciary to enforce those rights with the power of judicial review comes in handy when it’s your ox about to be gored by the government. It’s also a good PR move and some test cases that result in Palestinians prevailing against the Israeli government on matters of individual liberties would be even better (and would establish a tradition that will be useful to the Jewish Israelis in the future after the demographic scale tips).

    And if the Jewish population of Israel is really concerned, then it can staff that judiciary with its own judges now, while they’re still in the majority. That worked for the Federalists in the 1790’s.

    I’m not accusing Israel or the Israelis of not being committed to the rule of law or of having an insubstantial judiciary. But there is a difference between the constitutional system of the U.S. and that of Israel. Frankly, I think ours works a whole lot better because I’d rather be in the minority here than there.Report

    • I mostly agree with you here, but an arrangement such as you describe would assuredly mean the end of Israel as an officially Jewish state and the end of Zionism, which I understand to be an unpalatable option for all or almost all Israeli Jews. So in a one-state solution the choice still boils down to:

      1. A form of liberal democracy with guarantees of equal rights for all, but in which Israel ceases to be an officially Jewish state; or
      2. Israel surrenders its liberal democratic character in order to remain an officially Jewish state.

      Though Max points out there is a third option, which ought to be unpalatable to any decent person.Report

      • Then the time for Israel to start building strong legal institutions to pass along to the inevitable Palestinian majority is right now.

        It’s a practical exercise in the Rawlsian concept of the “original position” — if the Israelis know that they’re going to be in the minority one day, then to what kind of a state apparatus will they want to be subject? The idea that they will have to bequeath their government to the Palestinians one day should be the overriding factor in how they structure and run their government today.

        This principle, of course, has application well beyond Israelis and Palestinians. But you’re among the last people on this blog who need a reminder of that.Report

        • tom van dyke in reply to Burt Likko says:

          What you’re describing is turning Israel into Lebanon.

          Not only has the Christian population there declined from 50+% in 1932 down to 25-40%, now Lebanon is the home of periodic civil wars, and as we speak, Hizbollah operates as a state-within-a-state. This would be Israel’s future.

          Lebanon is precisely the real-world counterargument here. It has a well-conceived political system. It just doesn’t work.Report

          • Max in reply to tom van dyke says:

            And yet, in your refusal to think rationally about the need for a Palestinian state, you condemn Israel to precisely the conditions under which Lebanon exploded.Report

        • Then the time for Israel to start building strong legal institutions to pass along to the inevitable Palestinian majority is right now.

          I think this gets to the heart of it more than anything else. Israel either needs to commit to a two state solution at virtually any cost, up to and including unilateral withdrawal, with official recognition of a Palestinian state as the last desperate arrow in its quiver, or it needs to accept the long-term realities of the demographic challenge by making sure that it has extremely institutions that can survive a Jewish demographic minority status and protect Jewish liberties when in that status.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        The third option was what caused the six-day war in the first place.Report

    • Max in reply to Burt Likko says:

      This is a very good point. Israel is suffering from dozens of civil rights infringements against its own citizens because of its lack of a constitution. It’s a real crisis.

      I don’t think it will give you a viable single state, though. There is too much enmity between Jews and Arabs in the region. Any individual rights enshrined now could be easily revoked were the government to be majority Arab, for one thing.

      But frankly it would never even get to that point. If Arabs ever become a voting majority in Israel, there will be a civil war.Report

    • North in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Burt, not to pile on but while I agree with you in principal for any other country in general I feel that this is unfeasible for Israel. One of the primary points of her founding was that a Jewish state would allow Jews to no longer live at the mercy of others.
      You being a lawyer I’m sure you’re keenly aware of how limited the laws can be in controlling people. They’re a restraint, but only for a long as they were allowed to be. Maybe a one state Israel with a Palestinian majority would moderate and turn into a little USA in the Middle East (remember, yes Jews are treated well in the US but that’s because we non-Jews as a people have chosen to treat them well, again it’s out of their hands). But maybe it’d turn into Lebanon or maybe it’d turn into a new raging war. Whichever way it went the decision would no longer be in the hands of the Jews who lived there but the Arab majority they lived with. To most Israeli’s this would be a violation of the basic raison d’être of Israel.Report

  5. Max says:

    Just a quick note: Mr. Gorenberg (whose book I recommended above) is today’s bloggingheads feature: http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/36392Report

  6. Mark says:

    Israel just means obey Avigdor Lieberman or die.Report