A Likudnik's How-To Guide for Annexing the West Bank
On Sunday afternoon, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely published her five-stage proposal in an op-ed in NRG. It's a kind of how-to for annexing the entirety of the West Bank. She begins by accusing the right of "waiting for a miracle" and "political passivism," and everyone (Lieberman, Netanyahu, Lapid, Yachimovitch, and even Bennett) of being stuck in the “Oslo language.”
Well, at least there are a few things we can agree on. But then I read the rest of the op-ed, which contains her plan to solve the "Arab problem." The first stage of her proposal (and one assumes a prerequisite for it, given its numerical location) can be read as follows:
National preparation for Aliya (Jewish immigration to Israel). There are 9 million Jews living today in the Diaspora, and immigration [aliya] statistics count [a few] thousands each year. If we add to this figure the [numbers of Israeli] elite that leave, it's hard not to say that the State of Israel has given up its vision for the ingathering of exiles, the cornerstone of Zionism. So that the State of Israel will be able to deal with the absorption of 1.5 million Arabs, the aim should be to bring two million Jewish immigrants to Israel in the next decade.
The other stages consist of legislating a citizenship bill that demands national service, annexing Area C (immediately, it would seem), adopting Basic Law: Israel—the Nation-State of the Jewish People, which will anchor state symbols—anthem, Israeli holidays, and the Law of Return—in the closest thing Israel has to a constitution, and securing the educational system to make it impossible to “incite terror.”
But back to the big picture: Hotovely has never been quiet about her desire to “apply Israeli sovereignty” over the entire West Bank (not just Area C). But she, and other like-minded politicians on the right, have never proposed a concrete plan for how it would work—demographically and democratically. And there’s good reason for that: when a plan like this is put into words, it sounds, and is, impractical.
And consider the first (and dare I say most farcical) stage of Hotovely’s process—importing 2 million Jews to replace the demographic equilibrium lost once Israel offers citizenship to the “1.5 million” Palestinians in the West Bank.
First, let's put the right’s statistical corruption to bed right now: there are 2.6 million Palestinians living in the West Bank. So say the data of the IDF Civil Administration, the Palestinian Authority Bureau of Statistics, the United Nations, and the Shin Bet. The number that the right has been using to convince itself that it can “handle” giving citizenship to few thousand Palestinians is plain wrong.
Second, a lot of people are probably wondering where Hotovely expects to find these 2 million Jews. The best place for her to go is obvious: the most populous Jewish country outside of Israel is far and away the United States, home to between 6 and 6.4 million Jews. The thing is, and as I’ve written before, the last ten years of American aliya have yielded exactly 1.5 percent of Hotovely’s hope—some 30,000 American, Canadian, and British people have moved to Israel since 2002. And despite the wishful thinking of some Israelis (a full 69 percent) who expect American Jews to make aliya, the U.S. brought fewer people (2,290) than Ethiopia (2,432) to Israel in 2012.
No doubt something major would have to happen for Hotovely’s vision to be realized in the U.S. I, for one, pray it doesn’t.
And in case Hotovely cares, American Jews don’t make aliya for familial, economic, and security reasons: They don’t want to leave their elderly parents, they know they’ll have to downsize their apartment, and they’re nervous about living in a hostile region and serving in the army. Also because they don’t want to be judged as they walk down the street in Jerusalem, they don’t like how the Rabbinate treats converts, they’re nervous about learning Hebrew, there’s no Sunday, and they sometimes simply think they could be more effective in the Diaspora. Sure, all of this could change—America’s economy could hit another 2008 bubble, or some might get fed up with the steep cost of American Jewish day schools, but it seems unlikely.
So Hotovely can’t be relying on the numbers from the U.S. Note that over 7,200 Jews made aliya from the former Soviet Union last year. And other countries in Europe brought solid numbers as well—Ukraine: 2,048, and France: 1,653. But she still misses the math—the Jews of the world would have to increase their aliya rate by 12 times over the next ten years in order to keep pace with her. According to a recent “61” post, even if Hotovely were to miraculously entice all of British (263,346), French (483,500), and Russian (205,000) Jewries, the total still comes to less than 1 million (951,846). It just isn’t going to happen.
If the infeasibility of MK Hotovely’s plan demonstrates just how fed up she is with the status quo, its delivery only goes to show how widespread her dream of full annexation is among the right. Of 68 current members of the Israeli coalition, 28 oppose a Palestinian state and want to apply Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, but beyond that there a disturbing number of vocal Likud politicians who fantasize, like Hotovely, of an Israel from the river to the sea, among them Reuven Rivlin, Miri Regev, Yariv Levin, Gilad Erdan, and of course Danny Danon and Moshe Feiglin. This particular fantasy—that 2 million Jews are going to pack up for the sand dunes of Israel in the next decade—is just the latest Likud mirage.