Monday, August 30, 2010

Gadi Taub: Settlements Threaten Israel's Status As Jewish Democratic State

Israeli and American officials express doubt over whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will extend Israel's 10-month moratorium on settlement building, due to expire on September 26. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to withdraw from Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that begin Wednesday if the moratorium ends.

Gadi Taub (above), assistant professor of communications and public policy at Hebrew University and author of "The Settlers," writes that due to demographics, West Bank settlers threaten Israel's status as both a Jewish and democratic state. They also block the only viable resolution to the conflict: the two-state solution:

Even if Israel annexed only the West Bank, it would more than double its Arab population. With birthrates in the territories far exceeding those of Arabs and Jews within Israel, Jews would soon enough be a minority. This would void the very idea of a Jewish democratic state.

Israel would have to choose between remaining democratic but not Jewish, or remaining Jewish by becoming non-democratic. Israel’s enemies have long maintained that Zionism is racism and that Israel is an apartheid state. If the settlers succeed, they will turn this lie into truth.

...If the road to partition is blocked, Israel will be forced to choose between two terrible options: Jewish-dominated apartheid or non-Jewish democracy. If Israel opts for apartheid, as the settlers wish, Israel will betray the beliefs it was founded on, become a pariah state and provoke the Arab population to an understandable rebellion. If a non-Jewish democracy is formally established, it is sure to be dysfunctional. Fatah and Hamas haven’t been able to reconcile their differences peacefully and rule the territories — throwing a large Jewish population into the mix is surely not going to produce a healthy liberal democracy. Think Lebanon, not Switzerland.

In truth, both options — and indeed all “one-state solutions” — lead to the same end: civil war. That is why the settlement problem should be at the top of everyone’s agenda, beginning with Israel’s. The religious settlement movement is not just secular Zionism’s ideological adversary, it is a danger to its very existence. Terrorism is a hazard, but it cannot destroy Herzl’s Zionist vision. More settlements and continued occupation can.

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