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memri
April 1, 2001 No.
200

Conference on 'The Balance of National Strength and Security in Israel'

About three months ago the Interdisciplinary Academic Center in Herzliya held a conference on "The Balance of National Strength and Security in Israel." The conference's organizers and 300 participants were the leading figures of Israel's political, defense, and academic establishments. Last week, the conference's organizers published a document titled, "The Balance of National Strength and Security in Israel: Policy Directions," which is an abstract summary of the ideas that were presented at the conference. This document was presented to Israel's President Moshe Katzav. According to Ha'aretz correspondent Yair Sheleg the document "is quite astounding [because] the core of Israel's political, defense and academic establishment has come up with a document that corresponds, in its recommendations and general tone, with the views of the far right."[1] On March 23, 2001, Sheleg published an article entitled, "Danger, Arabs" about this document:

Arabs are a Demographic Threat

"[Sheleg writes that far-right views in this document particularly reveal themselves] with respect to the importance attached to the demographic threat to Jewish Israel posed by the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. The document points out that 'the birth rate of Muslims in Israel (4.6 children per woman) is nearly double that of Israeli Jews (2.6 children). Today, approximately one out of every five Israeli citizens is a Muslim Arab. Within 20 years, the ratio will be one to three.' The document emphasizes not only the security risks and the implications for Israel's identity as a Jewish-Zionist state, but also the economic ramifications: 'Israel's growing Arab sector has socioeconomic characteristics that will turn it into a millstone around Israel's neck. A very small percentage of the Arab population participates in the work force [Israeli Arab women and children do not participate in the workforce], whereas its consumption of public services (welfare payments, social services, schools and health services) greatly exceeds its relative share of the total population.'"

"The document makes a number of significant recommendations, among them instituting a policy that encourages families with three or four children... Other recommendations are to encourage Jews to settle in areas that are demographically problematic - especially the Galilee, the Jezreel Valley and the Negev 'in order to prevent a contiguous Arab majority that will geographically divide the country.' [Another recommendation is] to effect population exchanges between Israel and a future Palestinian state (to which the document does not object), incorporating Jewish settlement blocs on the eastern side of Green Line into Israel, and giving the Palestinians sovereignty over Arab settlement blocs (including parts of the 'little Triangle,' East Jerusalem and concentrations of Bedouin dwellings in the northern Negev).

An Answer to Population Explosion

"Another proposal is 'to consider allowing the Arabs of the State of Israel to choose between full Israeli citizenship or Palestinian citizenship with permanent residency rights in Israel.' To balance the weight of the Arab electorate, the document recommends allowing Israeli citizens residing abroad to participate in elections without having to be present in Israel [in the same way that Americans can cast their vote overseas.]"

"The document points out that the natural population growth of Palestinians living in the territories is even higher than that of Israeli Arabs. The [Palestinian] population doubles every 20 years. The chairman of the conference and its chief organizer, Dr. Uzi Arad, stresses that the Gaza Strip has the highest rate of natural population growth in the world: 4.4 per cent each year. Economically, the Palestinians were in dire straits even before the Intifada. Since the signing of the Oslo accords, the GNP has dropped by 20 percent per person... The authors of this document say that these factors increase legal and non-legal attempts to move to Israel (since 1967, nearly 100,000 Arabs have settled in Israel under conventions governing family unification)."

Sheleg adds: "These problems can be addressed, according to the document, by employing means that call to mind the idea of transfer - without mentioning the word explicitly: 'It will be necessary to find some place for resettlement outside the State of Israel (perhaps to the east of the Jordan) for the Palestinian population if they do not curb its rate of growth.' The document recommends that the international community make its aid to the Palestinian Authority contingent on the introduction of population-control measures, 'as was done in the case of Egypt.' Under the circumstances, permitting Palestinian refugees from all over the Arab world to return to PA-controlled territories, not to mention Israel, will only perpetuate their hardship."...

"'The word 'transfer' has aggressive connotations,' says Arad in the document. 'The Palestinians have made a decision that they want the highest rate of natural population growth in the world, but they don't have the means to support it. They are all crowded together in a tiny area. So what should those who are really interested in their welfare do? Leaving them in the Gaza Strip means sentencing them to a life of misery. If you object to moving them elsewhere only because it looks like transfer, you are basically confining them to a concentration camp. Should a humanitarian solution be turned down only because it might look like transfer to some people?...'"


[1] Ha'aretz, March 23, 2001