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Recently, the demographic issue has become - and rightly so - the central argument justifying Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The rightist camp's counter-argument is that the demographic problem will continue to haunt Israel even within the new borders. The counter-argument's rebuttal is that no mortally ill person would oppose the removal of an organ on the grounds that later the disease might spread to other organs.

But a rational patient forced to undergo an organ removal would make serious lifestyle changes to ensure that the disease would not reappear. Thus, Israel's withdrawal from the territories must not be the only measure taken to ensure that Israel will have both a Jewish majority and a Jewish character. Other measures must be taken, such as drawing up a constitution - or, at least, the passage of several rigid Basic Laws - to ensure the attainment of these two goals. Furthermore, an effort must be made to limit the ability to acquire Israeli citizenship other than through the Law of Return.

Of course, foreign workers must be allowed to enjoy most of the rights enjoyed by Israeli citizens, such as the right to health and education services. However, that does not necessarily mean that those rights should include receiving Israeli citizenship. Justification could also be found for conducting rigorous examinations of the Palestinian spouses of Israeli Arabs seeking Israeli citizenship to prevent the exploitation of this avenue for realizing the demand of a Palestinian right of return.

The process of Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza would be an appropriate time for the simultaneous implementation of the other measures. First, the sacrifice entailed in the uprooting of tens of thousands of Israelis from their homes would overshadow the other measures and might therefore blunt any possible opposition on the part of either the international community or the Arab and post-Zionist public in Israel. If the maintenance of a Jewish majority justifies the uprooting of so many people, it will also justify denying Israeli citizenship to other individuals.

Second, such an overall policy will broadcast to the settlers and their supporters the message that the use of the demographic argument is not cynical and thus there might be a calming down among those opposed to the evacuation. That does not mean, of course, that all opposition to the evacuation will vanish completely; however, if people know that they have to something to gain even if they also will lose something (the settlers are also interested in guaranteeing a Jewish majority in Israel), the emotions linked to their opposition will necessarily diminish.

The above measures are justified and important in themselves; however, their implementation today, alongside the process of withdrawal, could serve as a sort of "ideological compensation" that might be just as important in the eyes of ideological settlers as monetary compensation.

At the same time, if a unilateral Israeli pullout is justified today in the name of Israel's demographic and security interests, then there is every justification in Israel's demanding that the borders of the withdrawal be determined according to those same interests.

Thus, it is vital, and not just logical, that a unilateral withdrawal, should it take place, would not necessarily be a pullback to the June 4, 1967 borders (with minor adjustments). First, there is no justification for such a massive evacuation unless it is carried out within the context of a peace settlement. Second, that sort of pullback would never provide the Palestinians with the motivation for reaching a peace settlement. When all is said and done, Israel is interested in a binding political settlement.

Granted, the international community will not recognize borders that are incongruent with the June 4, 1967 borders (unless both sides agree to another arrangement). On the other hand, the PA has no real motivation for reaching a comprehensive peace settlement that will include "painful concessions" from their standpoint, such as the waiving of a Palestinian right of return and the recognition of the end of the conflict, because, as far as they are concerned, even if there is no peace settlement, a binational state will swallow up the state of Israel anyway.

The conclusion is thus paradoxical: Only an Israeli leadership that proposes a withdrawal to the 1967 borders in the context of negotiations with the Palestinians could legitimize another unilateral arrangement should the talks collapse. The government of Ehud Barak offered that sort of leadership, in sharp contrast with the government of Ariel Sharon. Even supporters of a withdrawal to the 1967 borders should welcome the idea of the other option remaining in the background as a realistic possibility because that might prod the Palestinians to reach a peace settlement with Israel.

If Israel makes it clear that, from its standpoint, such a unilateral arrangement is temporary (even if considerable funds are invested) until a partner can be found for a peace settlement, it will then be incumbent upon the Palestinians to ensure that a temporary arrangement does not become a permanent one.