The Road to Bantustan

Half a century ago, when Israel was much smaller and poorer, attacks on Jews abroad would put immigrant absorption centers around the country on high alert.

Half a century ago, when Israel was much smaller and poorer, attacks on Jews abroad would put immigrant absorption centers around the country on high alert. In the 21st century, with the Jewish state spread far and wide and equipped with the finest weaponry, the term "immigration" is rarely heard, even in the face of terror attacks on synagogues in Turkey and the burning of a Jewish school in France.

During his last visit to Moscow, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon solved the demographic problem with a forecast of 1 million immigrants. In the meantime, thanks to some 30,000-40,000 immigrants who have since left Israel, Moscow has earned the distinction of boasting the fastest-growing Jewish community in the world.

The right understands that waves of anti-Semitism will not bring masses of Jews to a country riddled with terror, unemployment and social rifts, and on the verge of losing its Jewish majority.

Extremists the likes of Benny Elon believe the solution lies in "encouraging" Palestinians to relinquish all of the territories or, at the very least, the dream of a Palestinian state. More moderate rightists, such as Ehud Olmert, propose that the Jews relinquish a small portion of the lands of Judea and Samaria, based on a formula of "maximum land, minimum Arabs." As far as they are concerned, the Palestinians can term the enclaves that remain under their control "a state." They will be first in line to recognize it.

The good news is that the Revisionists have also begun to internalize the link between the realization of the vision of a Palestinian state and the realization of the Zionist dream. Already on taking power in 1977, they understood that if Israel were to annex the territories, it would be unable to preserve a Jewish and democratic character. Now, they are coming to the conclusion that the political status quo is working to the detriment of the Zionist notion. Despite the abundance of incentives on offer to Jews who settle in the territories, and despite the pressure on the Palestinians to get out of there, Jews constitute no more than 10 percent of the total population of the West Bank (and some 0.6 percent of the population of the Gaza Strip).

The bad news is that the right wing's separation plan vis-a-vis the Palestinians does not include an attempt to resolve the territorial dispute - the heart of the conflict - by means of the acceptable norms of a cultured society: negotiation, mediation, and the like.

Olmert claims he would prefer to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, but that, to his regret, they have abandoned the idea of two states for two peoples, under the assumption that demographics and democracy will transform the Greater Israel into the Greater Palestine. Did he not see the Arab League's resolution of April last year that recognized Israel within the 1967 borders, as well as its right to determine which and how many refugees would be allowed to return to it? Has he heard nothing of the 60,000 plus Palestinians who have signed the Nusseibeh-Ayalon agreement, or that Abu Ala has adopted the Geneva understandings?

Back in the days of the unity government, Abu Ala did, indeed, reject an idea similar to that proposed by Olmert - to declare a state within temporary borders. The contacts between Abu Ala and Sharon hit a dead-end after the latter refused to agree to an arrangement under which, after a brief interim period, Israel would withdraw to the 1967 borders (with fair border adjustments).

Olmert, like Sharon before him, proposes a 25-year life span for the temporary state, with the final-status agreement to be based solely on UN Resolution 242. Olmert is correct in saying there is no Palestinian partner for an agreement with Israel - if he means an agreement for the establishment of "a temporary state" that would leave Israel in control of some 42 percent of the West Bank. This is the extent of the Palestinian territory that, in accordance with the Likud's plan, will remain outside of the separation fence on completion of the project (16.6 percent in the area of the western fence, and 25 percent in the vicinity of the Jordan Valley and Judean Desert).

Indeed, there isn't a single Palestinian who believes that after the Israelis become accustomed over two decades to the borders of broken-up Bantustan, they will then tear down the walls and divide Jerusalem. Yes, there really is no one to talk to on the other side about a Palestinian state whose entire purpose is to save the Zionist state.

If Israel is tempted to establish Bantustan for the residents of the territories, and to put off a resolution to the problem of the Palestinian diaspora for better days, the residents of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora can expect worse ones to come.