A one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is upon us. It won’t arrive by the Israeli Settler Movement, or through the efforts of BDS campaigners to alter the Jewish state. But it will happen, sooner rather than later, as the states on Israel’s borders disintegrate and other regional players annex whatever they can.
As that happens, Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria is becoming inevitable.
Recent rocket attacks from Gaza failed to inflict many casualties in Israel - but they administered a mortal wound to Palestinian self-governance. Hamas launched its deepest strikes ever into Israel after the IDF cracked down on its West Bank operations following the murder last month of three Israeli boys, arresting nearly 900 members of Hamas and other terrorist groups.
Humiliated in the territories and unable to pay its 40 000 employees, Hamas acted from weakness, gambling that missile attacks would elicit a new Intifada on the West Bank. Although Fatah militias joined in the rocket attacks from Gaza, for now the Palestinian organizations are in their worst disarray in 20 years.
The settlers of Judea and Samaria have stood in the cross-hairs of Western diplomacy for two decades, during which the word “settler” has become a term of the highest international opprobrium. Yet the past decade of spiralling conflicts in the Middle East have revealed that what is settled in the region is far less significant than what is unsettled.
With the sharpening divisions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the wider region, the settled, traditional, tribal life of the Levant has been shattered. Never before in the history of the region have so many young men had so little hope, so few communal ties, and so many reasons to take up arms.
The whole of the surrounding region has become one big refugee crisis. The seemingly spontaneous emergence of irregular armies like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) now rampaging through northern Mesopotamia should be no surprise.
The misnamed Arab Spring of 2011 began with an incipient food crisis in Egypt and a water crisis in Syria. Subsidies from the Gulf States keep Egypt on life support. In Syria and Iraq, though, displaced populations become foraging armies that loot available resources, particularly oil, and divert the proceeds into armaments that allow the irregulars to keep foraging.
ISIS is selling $800 million a year of Syrian oil to Turkey, as well as selling electricity from captured power plants back to the Assad government. On June 11 it seized the Bajii power plant oil refinery in northern Iraq, the country’s largest.
The region has seen nothing like it since the Mongol invasion of the 13th century. Perpetual war has turned into a snowball that accumulates people and resources as it rolls downhill and strips the ground bare of sustenance. Those who are left shiver in tents in refugee camps, and their young men go off to the war.
As a result of this spiralling warfare, four Arab states—Libya, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq—have effectively ceased to exist. The remaining states in the region—Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran—will alternately support and suppress the new irregular armies as their interests require. Saudi Arabia fears that Sunni extremists might overthrow the monarchy. Turkey fears that the depredations of ISIS on its border will trigger the formation of an independent Kurdish state, which it has opposed vehemently for decades.
Iran views ISIS as a Sunni competitor for influence in the region. Today Iraq’s Sunnis, including elements of Saddam Hussein’s mainly Sunni army, are making common cause with ISIS. Tomorrow they might be shooting at each other. The expectation that the waves of sectarian and tribal violence that have caused national borders to crumble across the Middle East, will die down in 30 years, may be both incredibly grim and wildly optimistic.
How does this influence Israel
In the background of the region’s disrupted demographics, a greater demographic change overshadows the actions of all the contenders. That is decline of Muslim fertility, and the unexpected rise in Jewish fertility. Israel is the great exception to the decline in fertility from North Africa to Iran. The evidence is now overwhelming that a Jewish majority between the Jordan River and the sea is baked in the cake.
The CIA World Factbook estimates total fertility of Arabs in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza at just 2.83 in 2014, versus 3.05 in 2011. The total fertility of Israeli Jews, meanwhile, has risen above three children per female. Jewish immigration is consistently positive and accelerating, while Palestinian emigration, at an estimated 10,000 per year since 1967, is reducing the total Arab population west of the Jordan River.
Palestine Authority data exaggerated Arab numbers in Judea and Samaria by about 30 percent, or 648,000 people, as of the 1997 census. Jews will constitute a 60 percent majority between the river and the sea, and it is estimated that due to almost entirely Jewish immigration, Jews could comprise an 80 percent majority within the 1949 armistice lines and Judea and Samaria by 2035.
Israel therefore has little to fear demographically from annexation. Net Jewish immigration and net Arab emigration will combine with higher Jewish fertility to establish a Jewish supermajority over time.
The character of the West Bank population is changing: It is becoming older and more educated, and increasing numbers of Arabs are benefiting from the strong Israeli economy. Over time, West Bank Arabs may embrace Israeli citizenship—when it is offered—as firmly as their counterparts inside the Green Line. The so-called apartheid issue is a canard. Israeli Arabs lived under martial law between the end of the War of Independence in 1949 and 1966, and no one spoke of apartheid.
Israel’s most pressing problem in the near future may be Arab refugees trying to get in.
The notion that the Palestinians could stay clear of the riptide that has engulfed their neighbours was fanciful to begin with and has now been trampled by events. Over the past two decades, since the Oslo agreements were signed, the Palestine Authority have shown little ability to govern anything. After Egypt’s military government suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood, it turned viciously against the Brotherhood’s Palestinian wing, Hamas, and blockaded Gaza.
If the PA were capable of ruling the West Bank, it would have allied with Egypt and Saudi Arabia to further isolate Hamas: Instead the PA formed a national unity government with Hamas. Events have shown that the PA cannot rule without Hamas, and it cannot rule with Hamas; it can neither support nor suppress terrorism on the West Bank. The inability of the Palestine Authority to govern, the inability of Hamas to distance itself from its patron in Tehran, and the collapse of the surrounding states eventually will require Israel to assume control over the West Bank. This time the Israelis will stay.
Israel can’t rely on the PA to conduct counter-terrorism operations against Hamas, its coalition partner. Israel’s border with the Hashemite Kingdom in the Jordan Valley, meanwhile, has become a strategic pivot. ISIS is now operating in strength at the common border of Israel, Syria, Jordan, and occupied Iraqi-Syrian border towns close to the common frontier with Jordan. Jordan’s own security requires a strong IDF presence on its western border.
When Israel absorbs Judea and Samaria—and it is a when, not if—the chancelleries of the West will wag their fingers, and the Gulf States will breathe a sigh of relief.
The historical homeland of the Jewish people will pass into Israeli sovereignty not because the national-religious will it to be so, or because an Israeli government seeks territorial aggrandizement, but because Israel will be the last man standing in the region, the only state able to govern Judea and Samaria, and the only military force capable of securing its borders.
It will happen without fanfare, at some moment in the not-too-distant future when the foreign ministries of the West are locked in crisis session over Iraq or Syria. And it will happen with the tacit support of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
Israeli authority will replace the feckless regime of the Palestine Authority in order to maintain public order and ensure that the electricity works, and the roads are secure, and that bands of jihadist marauders or Shiite terrorists do not massacre entire villages; this action will elicit the reflex condemnation from bored and dispirited Western diplomats.
The realization of the Zionist dream will then be consummated not with a bang, but a whimper; the bangs will be much louder elsewhere.