Sunday, 30 June 2013

"We're the majority, not the minority"

Last week, the official memorial for Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the Jewish state, was held in Jerusalem. The president and the prime minister spoke at the event. President Shimon Peres stressed that in Herzl's view, the State of Israel would be how the Jewish people would exercise their historic right to self-determination. 

"We're the majority, not the minority"

The president remarked that this right, as defined by Herzl, was adopted by the entire international community, and is recorded in international law as the right of the Jewish people to sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel, as decided by the League of Nations on July 24, 1922.

This law states that the right to sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Israel is reserved solely for the Jews. International law allows for possession of parts of this land to be transferred to other peoples only if we, as legal sovereigns, relinquish that right. 

Later in his address, contradicting this, Peres said the "opportunity to renew the peace process is at hand, and we must not miss it. The arrival of [U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry is a push to renew peace and we shall all assist him on his path to success." 

To deter people from rejecting his views, the president added the following: "A binational state contradicts Herzl's vision. It jeopardizes the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said he was not interested in a binational state.

But Israel has been a binational state ever since Peres' admired mentor, Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, turned it into one when he handed out citizenship to Arabs living in territories conquered by Israel before the election of the Constituent Assembly (the first Israeli Knesset) in 1949, even though most of them were part of the enemy that Israel's army had defeated. Suffice to examine the languages in which texts appear on Israeli currency -- a customary symbol of a country's sovereignty -- to understand that Israel is already a binational state.

Despite all that, and in spite of the obstacles, the coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel does not pose a threat to Zionism. Every Israeli citizen knows that. But the president insisted that if we do not relinquish our right, granted to us by international law, to sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, we will suddenly "become" a binational state. The demographic reality, however, tells a different story. 

According to demographer Dr. Yaakov Feitelson, while the birthrate in most nations is declining (including among Israel's Arab population, and among the Arabs in Judea and Samaria as well as Gaza), the birthrate among Jews is rising, currently matching the Arab birthrate in Judea and Samaria. 

In Judea and Samaria, there are currently 1.5 million Arab residents, at most. Even if we exaggerate and say that in addition to the 505,000 eligible voters over the age of 18 (as official Palestinian Authority data from the end of 2012 suggests), there are another million children (in practice there are far fewer than that), we are still dealing with less than 1.5 million. In fact, 200,000 of them -- residents of east Jerusalem -- are counted twice: Once as Israeli Arabs and again as Palestinians.

In other words, a minority of less than 2.5 million Arabs (including those inside the Green Line) versus a majority of more than 6 million Jews who are procreating at a faster rate, could not possibly pose a threat to Zionism. We have a solid Jewish majority, just as Herzl said, contrary to Peres' sentiments.

Next week, Peres is scheduled to address a memorial service in honor of my grandfather and namesake Ze'ev Jabotinsky, and I hope very much that he will not repeat the things he said last week, as they run completely contrary to my grandfather's beliefs and chosen path. In a recorded speech from 1937, my grandfather addressed the potential destructiveness of making concessions: "Do not underestimate the power of giving up. How did the miracle happen 20 years ago that the nations of the world recognized our right to the Land of Israel? They did not even know whether we were at all interested in the land. But there was one thing that everyone knew -- we hadn't given up in 2,000 years. That was the deciding factor."

On the power of our rights, he said: "Do not underestimate the power of a right, and do not exaggerate the value of a building that is being constructed. I, too, respect the construction of a building, but woe upon us if we extract the basis of our right to exist from it ... A right is worth more than what we have. We mustn't allow a Christian hand to touch our rights, but first, we must not allow a Hebrew hand to touch our rights, which are eternal and complete and shall not be relinquished. There is no shortcut to Zion, and Zion is ours in its entirety."

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