In mid-December, at the invitation of the Middle East Forum, I attended a luncheon in New York whose featured speaker was Avigdor Lieberman, a Deputy Prime Minster of Israel. He wants the Arabs out of Israel. It cannot be done.
Lieberman is staring at the glacial destruction of Israel by demography; the way populations grow or decrease. For Israel, the numbers do not bode well.
Israel’s Muslim population poses the ultimate threat to its existence. In 1949, there were 110,000 Muslim Arabs, nine percent of the population. By 2005 there were 1,141,000 or sixteen percent. They are, as Daniel Pipes, the Middle East specialist describes them, “a robust, assertive community whose leaders include a Supreme Court justice, an ambassador, members of the parliament, academics, and entrepreneurs.”
Lieberman is also designated the Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs, a post created for him by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when Lieberman’s new party won enough seats in the Knesset to make him a power broker. Neither the liberal members of Olmert’s coalition, nor Israel’s Arab lawmakers were too pleased. Previously, Lieberman had been credited with revitalizing Likud, enabling Ariel Sharon to become Prime Minister.
For a man with radical views, Lieberman is not an orator, but rather a very soft-spoken fellow. The Jewish power elite of New York who crowded the spacious 25th floor conference room of the law firm of Weil Gotshal & Manges appeared to like everything he had to say, but likely were not considering the impossibility of his proposal.
Lieberman wants Israel’s Arabs to take a loyalty oath or lose voting privileges in national elections and the right to hold national office, and he wants to expel Arab, i.e. Muslim politicians from the Knesset, the equivalent of Congress. Without the loyalty oath, Muslims would become “permanent residents” without the power influence the future of Israel.
The irony of this is that Islam has always had a second-class citizen status for infidels. They were called “dhimmi”, subject to taxes and regulations in ways Muslims were not.
For Lieberman the issue is loyalty. How long can a Zionist nation, i.e., a nation established by and for Jews, exist with a growing Muslim population? The answer is that it can’t. Many minority groups would prefer a nation of their own, but most must settle for integration into a larger population.
The Jewish Diaspora, despite pogroms and centuries of persecution, had survived, but a European-based Zionist movement in the late 1800’s, responding to widespread anti-Semitism, and later the Nazi Holocaust, convinced many Jews that only a Jewish state would insure continued survival.
Author and former Pentagon strategist, Thomas P.M. Barnett, in a recent blog responded to a question that asked whether Israel could survive as a strictly Jewish state. He said that, in an “increasingly globalized world”, this was highly unlikely. For any nation, “It all boils down to this question, can anybody become a full citizen of your state? Or are they restricted by reasons of race and/or religion?”
This is a particularly thorny issue these days as Muslim populations continue to grow throughout Europe, Great Britain, and elsewhere in the world. Many states do put strict conditions on who can become a citizen, but it is doubtful that Israel could or would pursue Lieberman’s plan.
Lieberman said he believes Arabs would be happier living among other Arabs. This has been demonstrated in Israel when communities that formerly had large Christian or Jewish populations became predominantly Arab and gave them reason to leave. Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, is now nearly bereft of Christians.
Even in Europe today, there are predominantly Muslim areas in cities and towns where non-Muslims are not welcome.
As the arithmetic of demography grinds on, Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, and other Islamist groups could achieve their goal of “eliminating” Israel without firing a shot. They need only wait a generation or so. Exiled from Israel by the Romans in 70 A.D., Jews may suffer this fate again. “The Arabs in Israel will destroy us,” said Lieberman.
Of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Lieberman said, “It is a dispute about our values. It is not about territory.” The values in contention are those of the West versus those of the Islamists. “It’s a fight between two civilizations.”
For nearly sixty years, Israel has been a strategic asset in the Middle East, but as doubts creep in about its ability and willingness to defend itself, it could lose needed support from the U.S. government. It has none in Europe. Meanwhile Palestinian factions continue to kill each other with abandon.
Lieberman said he was hopeful that “a new generation of Palestinians” would hold the key to ending the conflict that has plagued Israelis before and since 1948 when they declared their independence because “land for peace doesn’t work.” That much is true and it is useful to keep in mind that Israel is half the size of California’s San Bernardino County!
Lieberman dismissed the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had anything to do with other problems in the Middle East, but the real problem is that the Middle East is ruled by despots and monarchs, and remains the one region that, other than providing oil, wants to remain detached from the rest of the world. It thrives on oppression, guarantees no human rights, and has weak economies that provide few jobs and a bleak future for its people.
America’s evangelicals and Christians around the world believe that Israel, populated by Jews, must exist for the return of Christ Jesus. That hope, like the one Zionists harbor, grows more distant with every passing day.