Opinion

To the Settler Chief Who Insists Jews Must Rule Israel Even if Arabs Become the Majority

If nothing else, the right has persuaded me of this: We need to offer every West Bank Palestinian the option of voting in Israeli elections. If you refuse to allow them a country, for God's sake, allow them the vote

A Palestinian man walks past Israeli settlers standing outside a Palestinian house after it was occupied by settlers, Hebron, West Bank, March 27, 2018.
HAZEM BADER/AFP

A senior Israeli settlement movement official, responding to statistics cited by the Israeli military indicating that Jews are now a minority in the Holy Land, stated this week that Jews have the right to rule Israel even if Arabs become a majority within the country.

The statement came hours after a furor erupted Monday in the Knesset, where figures cited by an army colonel showed that some three million Palestinians now live in the West Bank and another two million in the Gaza Strip.

Combined with the 1.8 million Arab citizens of Israel and the 300,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, the statistics meant that from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, Arabs may outnumber Israel's 6.6 million Jews by as many as 600,000 people.

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The Israeli right wing was quick to dispute the figures, arguing that the West Bank total is based on data inflated by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Yigal Dilmoni, deputy CEO of the settlement movement's Yesha Council governing body, said that the Palestinian CBS total for the West Bank was too high by as much as a million individuals.

Dilmoni, appearing on Israel’s Channel 10 Television, was pressed by anchor Yaron London on the question of whether Israel would continue to deny West Bank Palestinians the right to vote, regardless of their number, and even if they were to constitute a clear majority.

"I truly believe that our right to the Land of Israel holds true whether or not [there is a majority]," Dilmoni replied. "It is just as when Ben-Gurion established the state and there were 600,000 [Jewish] people facing one and a half to two million Arabs.  Our right to the land of Israel was strong and present then. And it exists now as well.

"Therefore, the majority is not meant to be the deciding factor in our decision making."

Dilmoni's right. We waste much too much of our time here talking about democracy, rights, demography, minorities. Majority rule? Fine with us – but only if our side is the majority.

Here in Israel, we waste precious seconds listening to outliers on the right like President Reuven Rivlin, who believes that if you've taken over the West Bank permanently, the least you owe the Palestinians whom you've taken over is the opportunity to vote.

Why bother?

Dilmoni's honesty is refreshing. His view of the irrelevance of the majority extends to the Jews as well. It says to us: Even if, some day in the future – a clear majority in Israel, a clear majority of the Jews in Israel – is in favor of compromise over the future of the West Bank, the response of the pro-settlement, pro-occupation right wing is clear:

Tough luck. No way. We rule. We win. We win no matter what. Even if Israel loses.

It makes zero difference that the settler movement – which wags Israel's dog of a government with an outstretched arm and a death grip – has cocked up the country right to the max. Our future is in their hands.

No matter that the Jews, in particular the Jews of the right – and in closer resolution, the rightist Jews of an unhealthy slice of fiery, ever-deepening, evermore racist, evermore misogynist, evermore theocratic, evermore ghettoized and cowardly and ingrown extremism – have cocked up this country to a point where if only God can save it, God sure as hell better hurry up.

If nothing else, this week the Yesha Council succeeded in persuading me of one thing:

We need to offer every adult Palestinian in the West Bank and East Jerusalem the option of voting in Israeli elections.

I want to have the option of voting for an Arab prime minister.

For fifty years, the settlers have run this country. For some forty of those fifty, Likud has run it. They've had their chance. They've cocked it up.

It's time to expand the electoral roles. It's time for some new blood here. It's time for some democracy here.

If you refuse to allow them a country, for God's sake, allow them the vote.