Custom-designed Political Plan

"Since the Arab population, which constitutes more than 30 percent of the country's population, cannot reconcile itself to the exclusively Zionist nature of Independence Day celebrations," wrote President Dr. Abed Al-Aziz Al-Hindi.

"Since the Arab population, which constitutes more than 30 percent of the country's population, cannot reconcile itself to the exclusively Zionist nature of Independence Day celebrations," wrote President Dr. Abed Al-Aziz Al-Hindi, "and since the ethos of Independence Day celebrations has been built on the very concept of the Nakba ... there is no justification whatsoever for the President or for Mohammed Al-Khatib, the Speaker of the Knesset, which will be changing its name anyway in the near future, to take part in these festivities."

The above passage appears in an article by Israel Harel, a key thinker among the settlers, in a collection of essays, "Israel 2025: Scenarios on the future of Israeli society," published by the Friedrich Ebert foundation.

Harel cites figures of the Central Bureau of Statistics that were released on the eve of Israeli Independence Day, 2025: "Israel has a population of close to 10 million persons in an area measuring 21,500 square kilometers - the territory remaining in Israeli hands as a result of the final status agreement with the Palestinians (a document that is no longer referred to as a peace treaty). Only approximately 4,752,000 of Israel's residents define themselves in a significant, absolute manner as Jews. About 50 percent of those in the school system from preschool to junior high are Arabs."

But why go as far afield as 2025? According to the CBS, over the past few years, more Arabs than Jews have registered for preschool, elementary school and junior high school in the territory lying between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. According to Hebrew University demographer Professor Sergio Della Pergola, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs will constitute the majority of the population occupying this territory within less than a decade.

What would happen if Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, adopting a thoroughly brilliant plan, returned to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon total control of Area A, requested that this territory be annexed by Israel and instructed his soldiers to channel their energies into other fields of activity?

After all, it would be completely unreasonable to assume that enlightened people like Harel seriously intend to deny the good neighbors of the settlement of Ofra the fundamental democratic right to cast a ballot and to stand for election. It is doubtful whether Deputy Foreign Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior, a member of the Meimad party, would volunteer to explain the morality of such an undemocratic regime at the international conference against racism in Durban.

The analysis of the crusaders of Israel's unilateral separation from the Palestinians comes as no surprise to those who regularly read Israel's statistical yearbook. The settler movement has failed miserably in the demographic race. (It is interesting to note that neither Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - who keeps repeating the phrase "The settlements protect us" - nor any of his right-wing cabinet ministers, with the sole exception of National Infrastructure Minister Avigdor Lieberman, resides in "Judea and Samaria.")

Every two years, the Palestinian population in the territories increases by approximately 180,000 - which is the size of the Israeli population living today on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

In a country that does not want to become an apartheid regime where a minority rules a majority, it is crucial, in terms of national survival, to draw a clear demarcation line that will keep most of the Palestinian population outside its national borders.

The elixir offered by the champions of unilateral separation will ease the demographic pain a little but the wound will continue to bleed, perhaps even at a faster pace. It is regrettable that Israel's politicians have learned nothing from the experience of Israel's withdrawal to the "security zone" in Lebanon (where there was no need to defend Jewish settlements). Fences cannot keep a nation from achieving its goal of banishing an occupation force.

One cannot imprison 3 million human beings in Bantustans that have no infrastructure and no sources of employment. One cannot deny 3 million human beings their right to freedom of movement or their right to water resources and expect that they will not break through the fence and enter the area where the well-fed neighbors live. Would an imposed arrangement that does not, of course, include any Israeli concessions in East Jerusalem, receive the blessing of both Egypt and Jordan?

In a best-case scenario, the game of custom-designing your own political plans - from the Allon Plan to former prime minister Ehud Barak's maps - will only prolong the pain of the confrontation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. In a worst-case scenario, Prime Minister Azmi Bishara will not have to wait until 2025 to cancel Israel Independence Day.

It is fortunate that Sharon is not prepared to surrender either unilaterally or multilaterally even one empty prefabricated structure in Netzarim. This way, there remains, perhaps, some hope for the only formula that has not yet been thoroughly explored: A return to the 1967 borders, joint sovereignty in Jerusalem, territorial exchange and a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem that is not within the context of a Palestinian right of return.