Even former US president Jimmy Carter who single-handily (without much Jewish appreciation) did more to make Israel secure than any other living person confesses neither he nor anyone can change the march of demographics. Within the boundaries of the Holy Land there are just over six million Jews and six million Palestinians. The Palestinian birth rate is almost three times that of the Israeli Jews. If anything the Jewish population is starting to fall as an increasing number of Jews decide that Israel has no future for them and emigrate.
Another former US president, Richard Nixon, when asked by Patrick Buchanan how he saw the future of Israel, turned down his thumb “like a Roman emperor at the gladiators’ arena”.
Perhaps we are witnessing the death of Israel by a thousand cuts, the friction of conflict and the attrition of population. Maybe after all the rabbis of Vienna who were sent in 1897 on a fact-finding mission to Palestine to investigate whether it was a suitable place for Jewish settlement were right. They reported back that the “bride was beautiful but married to another man.”
The rabbis had been moved to visit Palestine by Theodore Herzl, an Austrian journalist, who had just published his highly influential book, “The Jewish State”, which launched the movement called “political Zionism”.
Herzl, a broad minded man, was happy to think of the new Israel in Argentina which had a considerable Jewish migration in the nineteenth century and was well away from the clutches of anti-Semitic Europe. He was also inclined to accept the offer of Joseph Chamberlain, then the British colonial secretary, for a site on the Uasin Gishu plateau near Nairobi in what was then British East Africa. The Zionist Conference overruled him.
When the British government, Palestine’s ruler, gave into Zionist lobbying and in the words, of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, favoured “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” the only Jewish member of the cabinet, Edwin Samuel Montague, denounced the whole project as a reconstruction of the tower of Babel. “Palestine”, he said, “would become the world’s ghetto”. Lord Curzon, the former Viceroy of India, observed that Britain had “a stronger claim to parts of France” than the Jews did to Palestine after two millennia of absence. He denounced it as an act of “sentimental idealism”.
But unmistakably this is the direction events and demographics are moving. Probably the best thing that outsiders can now do for Israel is to stop trying to help organize the creation of a two state solution and let the Israelis themselves look the Palestinians in the eye, as the demographics bite. If the white South Africans can do it so can the Israelis.
There are few rewards in this life for being farsighted on political questions. The Zionists still have the bit between their teeth on the creation of a permanent Jewish state, even as they face long term self-destruction. A few can see it coming and among the few is the former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert. In an interview he said, “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights then, as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.”
For the Zionist this would be a terrible end. But need it be for rank and file Jews who just want to bring up their families and live in an atmosphere emptied of violence? (Read Israeli novelist Shifra Horn’s book, “Ode to Joy” if you want to smell the cordite and sense deep in the soul the Jews’ everyday fear of being blown up.)
But unmistakably this is the direction events and demographics are moving. Probably the best thing that outsiders can now do for Israel is to stop trying to help organize the creation of a two state solution and let the Israelis themselves look the Palestinians in the eye, as the demographics bite. If the white South Africans can do it so can the Israelis. If this became the solution the Israelis would find that the only thing that most Palestinians would now want is a prosperous, capitalist economy that lives in peace with its neighbours.
The Jews would not be driven into the sea. But those who wanted to return to Europe, America or even Russia would be more than welcome. Both Germany and Russia, the great centres of anti-Semitism in the past, have seemed to have flushed that horror away, and treat their Jews well.
The Jews should never have tried to turn back the historical clock by returning to Palestine after fleeing in AD 70. But now they are there in such significant numbers their only solution is to honour the rest of the text of the Balfour Declaration. “Nothing should be done that may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”, it said. This was the British condition. The Israelis have long overlooked this. If they go on overlooking it they do so at their peril.
For 17 years the writer has been a foreign affairs columnist and commentator for the International Herald Tribune/New York Times.