Thursday, March 30, 2006

Should a one-state solution for Israel be back on the table?

In Israel's thinking about its big picture policy options, it has essentially ruled out a one-state option. Perhaps it is time to reconsider.

Statistics showing the Arab population growing significantly faster than the Jewish population mean that a one-state solution would eventually put Arabs in the majority, and the concept of a Jewish state would largely disappear. But according to a new study (which I wrote about earlier), those statistics are wrong.

The study, "The Million Person Gap: The Arab Population in the West Bank and Gaza" (by Bennett Zimmerman, Roberta Seid and Michael L. Wise of The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University), shows that the population of the West Bank and Gaza has been over-stated by over 50% in official numbers, and that the growth rate is lower than reported.

Perhaps the most revealing line of the study for Israeli strategists is this nugget hidden on page 54:
Israeli concerns about demographic pressure from the West Bank and Gaza have evidently been exaggerated. The demographic threat to Israeli society has not quantitatively changed since 1967.
Rabbi Mark Ankcorn in his reporting on the study writes,
One of the surprising statistics to come from this demographic survey is that the Jewish birth rate is actually significantly higher than the Arab birth rate in the region. Since 1967, the study argues, the Palestinian population of the Territories has remained stable at one-quarter of the total population west of the Jordan River. Excluding Gaza, the Jewish population stands at 67% of the total, and is growing at a rate of 2.1% annually, where the West Bank Palestinian population is growing at 1.8% annually.
Perhaps we are too far down the road to a two-state solution to consider backtracking. But this does raise the possibility.