According to Haaretz, Danny Ayalon, the ex-Israeli ambassador to the US and newly annointed member of Israel’s fascist Yisrael Beiteinu party (whose leader, Avigdor Lieberman, recently suggested that the Israeli state should do what it can to expel the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian), issued the following ‘warning’:
“If the government of Israel does not act to have a Jewish majority in the North, then the Arab majority in the Galilee will declare independence and [demand] international recognition on the basis of the precedents of Kosovo, Abkhazia and [South Ossetia].”
The Israeli government moves ordinary Jews and Arabs around as if it is playing chess. Don’t like the demographics of this particular sub-region of Israel? Give an incentive to Israeli Jews to move there by subsidizing settlement construction or with other ‘perks’–maybe even help out Jews around the world to acquire Israeli citizenship and move into one of these new settlements. This strategy is not new at all when it comes to Israeli state designs–in fact, this sort of “acting to have a Jewish majority” is the very premise of Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon’s settlement plans in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which were introduced in the late 1970s. What is interesting, however, is that it is being applied to an area already under Israeli sovereignty in order to prevent the possibility of a future secessionist movement.
When it came to the West Bank and Gaza, settlement construction became a government policy for two reasons: one, it provided the army with a pretext to continue occupying Palestinian land because it placed Israelis in the middle of what could be framed as a “dangerous” situation; and two, because it would create “facts on the ground” which could lead to a “demographic transformation” that could give Israel a pretext not to withdraw from all of the occupied territories, and to make the consolidation of a sovereign, contiguous Palestinian state impossible.
And while the Israeli government attempts to orchestrate the living patterns and dynamics of Jewish populations in settlements, it also wreaks havoc on the Palestinian people. Ordinary Palestinians are viewed as obstacles to the state’s grand plans for Jewish-stateness, and efforts must be made to get rid of them. In 1947 and 48, Israel’s pre-state terror squads razed villages killing men, women, and children, causing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee in terror. Today, the Israeli government uses means just as explicit to make life unlivable for Palestinians, by putting them under siege, preventing them from moving freely within their own lands, and disallowing their refugee relatives to return back to their homes. If a Palestinian town is “inconveniently placed” when it comes to Israel’s own state interests, it builds a wall around it to disconnect the residents from their agricultural lands, jobs, and surrounding towns, crippling their economy and encouraging them to leave to make way for Jewish-only settlements.
While the rhetoric of Yisrael Beiteinu party members, including Danny Ayalon, some tell us, is not mainstream in Israel (the party is currently part of the government), its underlying logic of demographic control of the population and a forced sort of gerrymandering is very much a mainstay of Israeli politics. When Avigdor Lieberman threatens to expel Palestinian citizens of Israel from the state, he shares already the government’s official understanding of those non-Jewish citizens as “threats” to the state, even if some of the softer Zionists believe there is room for a group of people in Israel that is by necessity institutionalized as a minority. He is only willing to be more bombastic about it. When Ayalon says that Jews must move to the north of Israel to prevent a Palestinian secession, he already shares the Israeli state’s historical position of re-settling Jews and expelling Arabs in order to produce a claim to sovereignty.
In short, in a state which defines itself as being a Jewish state–since states can have religions these days–demographic control is everything. It is the key element in all state strategy, and it is the measuring stick by which ‘stability’ and ‘sustainability’ are assessed. Everything else–including things like democracy, freedom, equality, justice, peace, which are not present in the Israeli state’s calculus when it comes to Palestinians, citizens or not–is of a lesser, disposable priority and, quite often, antithetical to the state.