Where Israel went astray

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There are two reasons that IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz's resignation this week was essential. First, during the war last summer with Hizbullah, Halutz failed to conceive of a war fighting plan for the IDF. Having failed, he needed to go. Second, both during the war and in the six months since its cessation, Halutz lost the faith of his officers and soldiers. A commander cannot function without the faith of his men, and so, again, he had to go.


There is every reason to expect that Halutz's replacement will win the faith of troops and officers. And it is essential that he do so quickly for as the war made clear, the IDF needs to undergo a massive, painful and rapid process of reform and overhaul if it is to meet the wide-ranging and acute challenges it faces.


Yet even if Halutz's replacement is an Israeli version of General George Patton, it is doubtful that he will have the opportunity to apply his military talents to the conceptualization and implementation of a fighting doctrine capable of defeating Israel's enemies. The IDF's doctrinal discussions are framed by the larger national debates in Israel. And today those debates remain captive to the same fantasies and lies that since 1993 have prevented the IDF from planning properly for war – whether in Lebanon, Gaza, Judea and Samaria or even Iran.


US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Israel this week reinforced this untenable situation. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, US Ambassador Richard Jones explained that during her visit, Rice "picked up" Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's plan to hold "discussions" with Fatah terror group commander and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas about the establishment of a Palestinian state in spite of the fact that the PA is ruled today by the Hamas terror group.


According to Jones, Livni convinced Rice that it is necessary to provide a "political horizon" to convince the Palestinians to replace Hamas with Fatah. After the Palestinians overthrow Hamas, he explained, it will be possible to implement the agreement and handover Judea and Samaria to Fatah (and Hamas).


That is, the Israeli government is pushing a national strategy that is based on a total lie. While Abbas plans his visit this weekend with Hamas terror master Khaled Mashaal in Syria in the hopes of facilitating the formation of an Iranian-Syrian sponsored Fatah-Hamas unity government, the Israeli government wishes to "strengthen" him.


A revitalized IDF will be unable to secure Israel under these conditions. As long as the guiding strategic principle dictating Israel's policies is that Israel must establish a Palestinian state, and to that end, the policy debate revolves around issues such as whether protecting the residents of Sderot from rocket attacks will strengthen or weaken Abbas, the IDF will be incapable of defending Israel regardless of who its leaders are.


SINCE THE inauguration of the 1993 Oslo peace process, Israel's national debate has largely ignored the only question that should be guiding it: How are we to advance Israel's national interests? Rather, since 1993, our national debate has been anchored around the question of how best to establish a Palestinian state. This question, rooted in the false Arab narrative which consciously rejects the morality of the Zionist revolution, has brought us to a position where the IDF is cognitively barred from rationally approaching Israel's security challenges.


Things needn't be this way. The Israeli public is quite sick of hallucinatory peace processes and is keen to reignite a Zionist national discussion. Consistent opinion polls show that the overwhelming majority of the public knows there is no possibility of achieving peace with the PA and that any Palestinian state will be a terror state. Moreover, in poll after poll, the Israeli public expresses its patriotism and its desire to strengthen and preserve the Jewish, democratic character of the State of Israel.


And there are options other than delusion. On Wednesday, one such option was presented in Washington at the American Enterprise Institute. There, the American-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIDRG) presented a plan for Israel's future called "The Fourth Way."


Led by American economist Bennett Zimmerman and former Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger, the AIDRG first burst onto the screen in early 2005 when it presented the first comprehensive analysis of Palestinian population data.


Since 1997, Israel's leaders have based their policies towards the Palestinians on what was perceived as a madly ticking Palestinian demographic time bomb. The public was told that the Palestinian population in Jerusalem, Gaza, Judea and Samaria was rapidly expanding and that by 2015, Jews would lose our majority west of the Jordan River. If we didn't hurry up and hand over Judea, Samaria and Gaza and partition Jerusalem, we would find ourselves forced to choose between a Jewish state and a democratic one.


The AIDRG took it upon itself to do what no Israeli governmental body had considered doing: Its members just started counting heads. It worked out that the doomsday scenario was based on a massive fabrication. In 1997, the PA published census figures that exaggerated its population figures in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem by nearly 50 percent. The PA double counted Arab Jerusalemites, included hundreds of thousands of emigrants to its population rolls, asserted mass immigration when in fact there has been net emigration from the PA since 1995. It exaggerated fertility rates and understated mortality rates. In all, the PA added approximately 1.4 million people who did not exist to its population rolls.


Rather than 3.8 million Palestinians, the team found there were likely no more, and perhaps less than 2.4 million Palestinians. Jews, who make up an 80 percent majority within sovereign Israel, make up a 59% majority of the population of Israel with Gaza and Judea and Samaria and a 67% majority of the population with Judea and Samaria without Gaza.


Last year, the group analyzed fertility trends in Israel and Judea and Samaria among Jews and Arabs. They found that in contradiction to the Palestinian and Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics forecasts, while Jewish fertility rates are on a steep and consistent incline, Arab fertility rates are steadily declining.


The significance of these actual trends is obvious: Not only is there no Palestinian demographic time bomb necessitating the immediate handover of Judea and Samaria to Palestinian terrorists. Israel's actual demographic position is its ace in the hole.


This year the team members took their data to the next logical step by offering their best shot at a national strategy for Israel, based on true population data. While one can agree or disagree with the viability of their strategy, the fact that it is based on truth rather than lies already places it in a different league from the "peace" plans that have held Israel intellectually hostage since 1993.


The plan is predicated on electoral reform in Israel that will set the course for a democratic absorption of all or parts of Judea and Samaria into Israel while securing the political rights of all Israelis – both Jewish and Arab. Israel today is governed by a proportional electoral system that treats the entire country as a unitary voting district. The plan recommends changing the electoral system to a direct, district-based voting system divided along the lines of the Interior Ministry's administrative partition of the country.


Given Israel's 80 percent Jewish majority outside Judea and Samaria, it is unsurprising that Jews form massive majorities in every administrative district in the country except the northern district. In the North, Arabs comprise a bare 52% majority. But the internal migration
of just 52,000 Jews to the North would overturn that majority.


Within Judea and Samaria, the sparsely populated sub-districts of Western Samaria and the Jordan Valley are vital for Israel's national defense. As the study shows, an internal migration of approximately 150,000 Jews to these areas would give them strong Jewish majorities. Given that the Tel Aviv district has a 99% Jewish majority and the central region of the country has a 92% Jewish majority, a national plan for populating the areas could easily facilitate such a migratory trend.


In the Jerusalem district, the population trends are in flux. The erection of the separation fence has driven tens of thousands of Arabs from Judea and Samaria into the city to avoid PA rule. Conversely, the high real estate prices in Jewish neighborhoods are forcing Jews to leave the city.


Today Jews make up a 67% majority in the capital. The researchers demonstrated that if the capital's boundaries are extended to include Jerusalem's western suburbs, the Etzion bloc, the Adumim bloc, and the Givon bloc on the Jewish side as well as Abu Dis, Beit Hanina and the north Jerusalem bloc on the Arab side, the Jewish majority of the expanded city would be 66%. The flow of Arabs into the city's center to get away from the PA would abate. Real estate prices throughout the city would drop with the increase of land supplies and so the capital would again be affordable to young Jewish families. If Bethlehem is added to the municipal boundaries of the capital, the Jewish majority would be reduced to 62%.


On the other hand, with the separation fence bringing about an effective partition of the city, "Arab Jerusalem" around its truncated and walled-off boundaries will enjoy a 72% Arab majority and the Jewish population within the shrunken, expensive capital will continue to dwindle.


NEXT WEEK Israel's premiere policy conference, the 7th Annual Herzliya Conference, will take place. The "Who's Who" of Israel will again present their "visions" for the country. In most cases, the speakers will regale us with tales of how they will make peace with the PLO and will warn us that we have to be nice to Abbas, (and eat our peas and carrots,) or be destroyed by Iranian nuclear bombs.


At last year's conference, the AIDRG team presented the data they had painstakingly compiled. They were greeted with unabashed hostility. Many walked out in the middle. Others groaned or chatted loudly with their friends trying to drown out the presentation. The audience of elitists didn't want to hear proof that for the past decade, Israel's national debate – which they themselves have led – has been based on a lie aimed at destroying the Zionist idea.


This year the team will return to the conference. But rather than being allowed to present their newest data and their plan, they were given a mere three minutes to speak at the end of a session about something else entirely.


Halutz's resignation was a good and necessary thing. But in and of itself, it will have little significance for Israel if it remains a lone incident. For Halutz's exit from the scene to be a harbinger for a better, safer future, it needs to be followed not only by the resignations of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz.


Our failed and delusional leaders must take their mendacious and defeatist national debate along with them. As they depart, we must regain control over our national conversation and build it upon the firm foundations of reality and a renewed commitment to advancing and securing Israel's national interests.



Originally published in The Jerusalem Post. 

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