|The secular Palestinian national movement is
at a crossroad. Since 2000, it has rejected three proposals of territorial
compromise, thinking that a better offer will be forthcoming. The
Palestinians believe time is on their side; that demographic trends,
western strategic considerations, and the collective economic power of the
Arab world will force Israel to yield to their demands. Recent
developments prove the folly of these assumptions.|
Talk of the Arab
birthrate has fueled the adage that Israel cannot hold on to the
territories and remain a Jewish and democratic state. We have been told
since the 1970s that Arabs would constitute a majority between the sea and
the Jordan River by 2000, 2010, and so on. These predictions rested on the
Orientalist assumption that Arabs would not undergo the transformation
that took place in other societies, in which the birthrate and family size
declined following modernization and urbanization. Recent demographic
studies contradict the demographic timebomb thesis. Arab birth rates are
declining sharply, whereas Jewish ones are on the rise. Moreover, the
withdrawal from Gaza means that if Israel established sovereignty over the
entire West Bank and enfranchised all its residents, Arabs would
constitute only about 30 percent of the newly formed body politic; hardly
the demographic juggernaut envisioned by the Palestinians and their
THE PALESTINIANS believe that the popularity of their
cause in the Arab street will translate into international support and
pressure on Israel by nations seeking to win friends in the Arab world.
And, for a while, it worked. The EU and the Obama administration tried to
force Israel’s hand.
But the current Israeli government, backed by
strong public support, successfully resisted the pressure for unilateral
At the same time, popular uprisings in Arab countries,
which were initially embraced in the West, have thrown those nations into
chaos. It is now clearer than ever that Israel is the only reliable
western ally in the region. This reality has dawned even on Turkey’s Recep
Tayyip Erdogan, who has traded his theatrical anti-Israeli diatribes for
low-key negotiations and symbolic gestures of friendship, like the recent
visit by cadets of the Turkish army to Israel. Palestinian intransigence,
not Israel, has turned out to be the strategic liability.
the Palestinians believe that economic coercion will bring Israel to its
knees. From the 1945 Arab League boycott of “Jewish products and
manufactured goods,” through the oil embargoes of the 1970s, to the modern
BDS (Boycott Divest Sanction) movement, Palestinians and their allies see
Israel as a resource-poor, vulnerable state that can be browbeaten into
making suicidal concessions. Israel, meanwhile, has prospered, and its
economy has proven to be surprisingly resilient, even during the current
global downturn. Moreover, recent discoveries of large deposits of natural
gas off its coast will shortly turn it into a significant energy exporter.
Surely, Europeans would prefer getting at least some of their gas from
reliable modern Israel rather than continue their current total dependence
on Putin’s Russia.
The Palestinians and their allies refuse to face
these realities. They eschew negotiations for symbolic gestures that do
little to bring them closer to self-determination.
While they add
more days of defeat to their nationalist calendar and celebrate greater
numbers of meaningless UN resolutions, Zionists continue to establish
facts on the ground. The Palestinians, I hope, will recognize the folly of
their strategy and return to the negotiating table.
The longer they
wait, the less they’ll get.
writer is a history professor at Fordham University and a playwright.
Habima is producing his play, Peace Warriors, in its forthcoming