Battlepanda: Israel's Internal Challenge


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Israel's Internal Challenge

They are often all but forgotten in discussing the conflict between Israel and it's Arab neighbors, but 20% of Israeli citizens are Arab, and that number is increasing. Juan Cole speculates that demographic forces could eventually move Israel into becoming a bi-national state. The ramifications of this possibility is very significant, and the timeline adds urgency to for Israel to make changes and mend fences. By the Israeli government's own numbers, in 2025, 30% of Israeli citizens will be Arab. It is concievable that in fifty years the Arab minority will no longer be a minority and Israel will be faced with an existential choice -- would it continue as a Jewish state by disenfranchising half of its citizens, or would it continue as an Democratic state at the expense of handing over power to the Arabs?

The ideal solution, of course, is to absorb the Arabs into Israel's citizenry so completely that (depite their different religion) they would no longer be a consolidated voting block. Granted, the resultant country would probably not be a Zionist's dream come true, but the political situation would be defused. The problem is, Israel does not seem to be very far down this path. Although Arab Israelis do have the vote, they are marginalized in other ways. They tend to live in very different neighborhoods as the Jews, and those neighborhoods recieve inferior public services. Arab towns were not even counted in a nationa cancer survey by the Israeli Ministry of Health. It goes without saying that they are underrepresented in the government bureaucracy. Even more worryingly, many Jewish Israeli have decided that the answer to the problem is not encouraging intergration but a circling of the wagons.
The Arab researcher, Assad Ghanem from the University of Haifa, released a poll earlier this month that had been carried out for the Madar research center in Ramallah. The poll indicated that 42 percent of Israeli Jews want the government to encourage Arab citizens to leave the country. Another 40 percent did not agree.
Quite frankly, the establishment of a country on the basis of a religious creed carved out of an area that does not share that creed strikes me as a bad idea. But I accept that the existence of Israel now is a good enough justification for its continual existence. The challenge in front of it is how to reconcile itself with both its Arab neighbors without and its Arab citizens within.