Last night I attended a mini-conference at the Israel Center in Jerusalem on the topic of "The Preferred Option: Israeli Sovereignty Over Judea & Samaria."
Organized privately by Yoel Meltzer, it was intended to be a kick-off for a process that, it is hoped, in time will significantly change perceptions regarding our situation here in Israel. It was not intended to be a definitive statement on that process, but a beginning.
Some 250 people attended the event. In the course of a few days, a video will be up on the Internet and I will share the URL. Here I provide a summary of what was said by four speakers.
A consultant on US affairs, Ettinger served as Israeli Embassy Liaison for Congressional Affairs, with the title of Ambassador, and as General Consul in Houston. Author of The EttingerReport.com, he has devoted much attention in the last few years to the issue of Israeli demographics.
Ettinger maintains that the argument that Israel must agree to a two-state solution because of the demographic threat to a Jewish majority is fallacious. There is a problem to be dealt with, but not a time bomb.
Figures that have been provided -- which supposedly "prove" that in the course of some years the Jews will be swallowed up by a Palestinian Arab population if all the land between the river and the sea is kept under Israeli control -- are inaccurate, Ettinger maintains.
In point of fact, there are approximately 1.25 million fewer Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza than is commonly claimed. He says there are several ways in which there are inaccuracies:
There are discrepancies in the PA census figures upon which estimates are based. Some 400,000 Palestinians Arabs who "could return" are counted in the census although they should not be (demographic statistical norms do not provide for this); the PA claims a net immigration into PA areas, when in fact there is a net emigration out of these areas; Palestinian Arabs who marry Israeli Arabs and receive Israeli identity cards end up being counted twice, as are Jerusalem Arabs with identity cards.
In addition, projections are wrong because the Palestinian Arab population, which has become more highly urbanized and educated, is undergoing a decrease in birth rate, while the Jewish population -- notably the secular population -- is undergoing an increased birth rate.
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Chairman of the Yesha Council -- the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria.
Dayan argues that Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria is the only just, vital and feasible solution:
It is our land.
Repeatedly, proposals supported by Jews to share the land are rejected by Arabs who claim 'winner takes all.' In their wars against us their intention was to take everything. It would not be fair to us to return to a two-state vision after these. The Arab behavior has cancelled the validity of a two-state solution. Now the party that was the victim of the aggression and the party that accepted the idea of compromise is the winner.
Vital for the existence of Israel.
This is, first, for security reasons, as defensible borders are necessary. There must be control of the heights of Judea and Samaria to protect the population and industry and airport along the Mediterranean from being shelled or attacked by rockets. Additionally, there must be a buffer against attack from incursions by radical from the east, from the Muslim world.
Vital from a Jewish perspective.
Our spiritual essence is in Judea and Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem. We would have a shallow society if we were to surrender Hevron, Shilo, Beit El and part of Jerusalem.
We must have determination and be self-confident. There are now 350,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria, 650,000 if eastern Jerusalem is counted. We need a million.
Dayan read an extraordinary resolution passed unanimously by the S. Carolina House of Representatives that supports a United Israel, and Israel's God-given right to the land. The point is that we have more support outside of Israel than we sometimes realize.
Dr. Mordecai (Moti) Kedar
Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence -- as a Lt. Col. -- specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, and Islamic groups. He is a lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. and an expert on Israeli Arabs.
Dr. Kedar brought to the discussion a different idea. There are two concerns we have, he said: One is to prevent a Palestinian Arab state from coming into existence, as it would be severely problematic. On the other hand, we want to ensure a very large Jewish majority. Whatever Ettinger's optimism about the demographics, there is a possibility of a risk of increased Arab population.
What he proposes is a sociological/anthropological solution: an Eight-state Solution. There are different Arab clans that are alive and well in this area. The problem is when there are multiple clans or tribes -- multiple ethnic and religious groups -- inside one political entity. This is the problem in Iraq, and if there were a Palestinian state, we would see a situation like that of Iraq.
Quiet is possible when a political entity is controlled by one clan or tribe only. This is the way it is in the Arab Emirates.
What Kedar suggests is that emirates based on individual clans or tribes be established in Judea and Samaria: they would be city-states. Each major Palestinian Arab city is controlled by a clan or tribe. The leaders of these clans know what to do, and what not to do, and it is this indigenous leadership and not PLO leadership that we should be dealing with. There wouldn't be formal peace agreements, but rather understandings that generate a condition of quiet -- a modus vivendi.
The city-states Kedar envisions are Jenin, Tulkarem, Shechem, Kalkilya, Jericho, Ramallah, and the Arab part of Hevron. Such small states do exist now, he says, in places like the Vatican and Gibraltar. He sees this as viable if some area for industrial development is included.
Israel would still have sovereignty from the river to the sea, and would surround each of these city-states. Rural Arabs would live under Israeli sovereignty and have citizenship. Israel would then have separated out 70% to 80% of the Palestinian Arab population, while avoiding the creation of a Palestinian state.
Kedar believes Israel can sell this if Israelis believe it can be done.
He would start with the Hevron tribes, as they have their own leaders and their own agenda; no outside Arab clan ruler is able to penetrate their area.
Journalist, deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC, and originator of the Latma satirical videos.
Sovereignty over Judea and Samaria is the only viable strategic option. To permit a terror state to be established is to incite Israeli Arabs and generate a threat from within.
Israelis understand that a PA state is not a solution, but don't yet recognize the viability of Israeli annexation.
The issue is not what the world thinks but what Israelis think. Our sovereignty in Jerusalem is not recognized by the world, but so what?
We need to devise tactics for moving Israelis to recognize this.
Media here are controlled by the left. Ideas planted by the media become policy within 10 years. We need to devise other methods for raising public awareness on the issue.
We need forums and to push a public debate, now, before the September UN vote. It's time to tell everyone what our rights are, and empower ourselves. We must also work to expose the true nature of Palestinian Arab society.
There is huge Israeli latent support that must be aroused. We must actively embrace the big ideas of Jewish peoplehood and the ingathering, Jewish destiny, etc. Must provide the Israeli people with a concept of what we can be if we embrace these inspirational concepts. We have a compelling case to make.
We should start political campaigns in the government and the Knesset. Back ministers willing to speak out. Force the issues on to the agenda and push for building in Judea and Samaria.
The "settlement" issue pits people against each other: those "settlers" vs. those in places such as Tel Aviv. We should couch the issue in terms of land. The land that the "settlers" live on belongs to all of us. Our claim to it should unite us, not divide us.