Monday, 4 January 2016

Can Israel Annex the West Bank Without Compromising the State's Jewish Identity?

Many Jews and Israelis including myself would love to see Israel formally annex Judea and Samaria, otherwise known as the West Bank.  But of course, many people say that doing so would compromise Israel's Jewish identity because there are as many as three million Palestinian Arabs now living in the disputed territory.  Assuming that they were all given the full rights of Israeli citizenship, Israel would be left with a razor-thin Jewish majority that would become a minority within a decade or two. My problem with this argument, mostly put forth by leftists and proponents of the so-called two-state solution, is that it wrongfully assumes that Israel would have to give all of the Palestinian Arabs living in Judea and Samaria citizenship.  I would actually contend that Israel has no obligation to make Palestinians in the West Bank citizens.  Predictably, my opponents will counter by saying that if Israel doesn't give these Palestinians citizenship, it will become an apartheid state.  Also not true.

Those of you who know the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict will know that after the 1948 War of Independence, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan formally annexed the territory that most of the world now calls the West Bank and gave all the inhabitants thereof Jordanian citizenship.  Jordan took responsibility for the Palestinian residents of the territory - a responsibility that it cannot just wipe away at the stroke of a pen.  Hence, if Palestinians now living in the Biblical Jewish territories of Judea and Samaria want to be in a country where they have the rights that citizenship gives people, most notably voting rights, then they are free to go to Jordan.  Besides, what the world now calls Jordan rightfully belongs to the Arabs who call themselves Palestinians, for it was wrongly seized from them and given to the Hashemites by the British (see: Jordan: The Real Occupied Palestine).

Moreover, if Israel did decide to annex Judea and Samaria without giving the Palestinian residents therein citizenship, it certainly wouldn't be the first time a country has withheld citizenship from some of its residents in order to protect its identity.  In fact, many countries in the Arab world do the same thing and receive little or no international condemnation for doing so.  For example, the majority of the people residing in the United Arab Emirates are not Emiratis or even Arabs.  They're mostly non-Arab guest workers and permanent residents.  In order to protect its national identity, the UAE grants citizenship only to those deemed to be descendants of the indigenous Arab population. A similar situation also exists in countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, where there are sizable, non-indigenous populations whose people are not afforded the rights of citizenship.  And guess which group of people never get full rights of citizenship in Arab countries?  Give up?  It's the Palestinians!  That's right.  For all the talk from dictators and despots about Arab brotherhood, Palestinians living in the various Arab states are given few if any rights, let alone citizenship.  In Lebanon, for example, a Palestinian not only has no vote; he or she cannot even be a doctor, lawyer, or member of any other distinguished and respected profession.  In fact, the only place in which any Palestinian is given full, equal rights of citizenship is in the State of Israel.  Even Palestinians in Jordan do not really enjoy all the rights that should come with being a citizen, because although they have a vote, they cannot change their country's government, which is under the firm control of the Hashemite dynasty, whose origins lie in Mecca rather than what we now call Jordan.  So Israel should certainly be forgiven if it decides to annex Judea and Samaria without giving the millions of Palestinians therein citizenship in order to protect its identity and preserve Jewish independence.

I believe that if Israel does eventually decide to formally annex the West Bank, the Palestinian residents should be given the same rights that permanent residents of any modern, democratic country are given, which include the right to work, freedom of movement and access to social services. Indeed, I think that if Palestinians in Judea and Samaria were offered such rights, they would welcome annexation. It's generally known, for example, that Palestinian residents on the eastern side of Jerusalem, would prefer to remain part of Israel rather than part of a dysfunctional Palestinian state led by corrupt despots.  That being said, Israel could only promise the Palestinians the rights that permanent resident status would give them if they agreed to put an end to their terrorist activities and accept the existence of the State of Israel.    

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