In my post earlier this week, I concluded returning to Israel’s pre-1967 borders would make the country difficult to defend against Arab aggression, even with its vastly superior military. Even with a patchwork of land swaps, it would still be a challenge for Israel to defend.
Leaving aside the situation’s military dimension, politically there is an inherent contraction between a peace in the world “that is” versus the world that “will be”.
The World That Is
A call to return to the negotiating table could not have come at a worse time for Israel. The political stability in Egypt and Syria that enabled a lasting thirty-year peace between Israel and its neighbors is no longer assured.
Egypt is likely to become more democratic, and arguably, more Islamic and anti-Israel. In nearly every case where an Arab population democratized, it has chosen Islamic radicalism.
After all, when given the chance to elect their own government in Gaza, the Palestinians voted for rejectionist Hamas. Lebanon’s democracy similarly produced a state dominated by Hizbullah.
Meanwhile, Assad’s crackdown in Syria continues apace with no end in sight. Israel’s security apparatus is now left guessing if and how the political situation will stabilize over the long-term.
Finally, Hamas has frequently been Iran’s terrorist proxy against Israel. Exchanging land for “peace” would likely provide more opportunities for Hamas to attack Israeli civilians and be unlikely to lead to any lasting peace.
The bottom line is that the timing of President Obama’s initiative could not have come at a worse time for the Israelis.
While the “world that is” does not favor a solution today for the Israelis, the “world that will be” likely will.
The World That Will Be
While the Palestinians will likely never defeat the Israeli military, Palestinian demographics ultimately will.
Or will it?
Until this week, I had accepted the argument that Israel’s population would ultimately be overwhelmed by what former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, called a “demographic threat to Israel as a Jewish state from a faster growing Palestinian population.“
While the number of Palestinians will likely surpass the number of Israelis in some future year, the alarm with which some have been trumpeting this demographic shift may not reflect the reality.
Yakov Faitelson has argued convincingly that the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has overstated the Palestinian population on several occasions. He suggests that these overestimates are politically motivated by a desire to make the Palestinian population appear to be as large as possible.
Either way, Faitelson’s argument does not change the fact that the Palestinian population is growing faster than the Israeli one. However, it does suggest that Israel has more time before a full demographic reversal takes place.
If Israel has more time and the political situation in neighboring capitals is still in flux, does it really make sense to push for a solution now?