Transfer' Is Dead, Long Live Apartheid

With the assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi, Israel lost the only child in the political arena who, like the child in The Emperor's New Clothes, managed to expose the nakedness of the seemingly moderate right.

With the assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi, Israel lost the only child in the political arena who, like the child in The Emperor's New Clothes, managed to expose the nakedness of the seemingly moderate right. He was the only person of leadership in the rightist camp to propose a solution to the conflict between the vision of a Greater Israel and the vision of a Jewish state.

Ze'evi said out loud what a number of high-ranking Likud politicians (i.e. Public Security Minister Uzi Landau, Education Minister Limor Livnat and Environment Minister Tzachi Hanegbi) are thinking but not saying: "In the Land of Israel, there is room for only one nation - the Jewish people." This is the practical significance of their call to get rid of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and to liquidate the PA altogether. But if Arafat is out of the way, and if the PA has been put out of commission, who will then represent the Palestinian people? Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin? Perhaps that is the reason why the "mainstream" of Israeli politics "forgave" Ze'evi for his "transfer" idea. Those who have learned to live with a protracted occupation, with the denial of political rights to three million human beings and with apartheid looming over the horizon, found it convenient to have someone like Ze'evi with his "transfer" notion to their right on Israel's political spectrum.

Although Ariel Sharon has pledged to carry out Ze'evi's political "last will and testament," no one really believes Israel's prime minister will actually implement an ideology that, in practical terms, means banishing Palestinians from their homes. In fact, Sharon himself has declared that he is "prepared to give to them [the Palestinians]," for the first time in their history, a state of their own.

It is doubtful whether Sharon himself actually believes that he will ever find any Palestinian leader willing to accept his multi-staged plan. The first stage would be the creation of a state that would consist of cantons, would be surrounded by Jewish settlements, would not have any real sovereignty and would not exercise any control over the location of its external borders or over its airspace. The second stage would be implemented 20 years later: If Israel is pleased with their behavior, it will offer the Palestinians a state that would be contained within the enclaves left to them by the Jewish settlers. However, unless a miracle happens, this proposal will be presented to the Palestinian people by a Jewish minority that will, by that time, have lost both its democratic base and its moral one. Land expropriations and the distress generated by the occupation have not had any impact on the Palestinian birth rate. The drop in Jewish immigration to Israel offsets the increase in the number of Palestinians who are leaving the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to take up residence elsewhere in the world.

The wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union that increased Israel's population by one million people (one-third of whom, however, are not Jewish) put the dire predictions of the demographers on hold for a while. However, that "human reservoir" is steadily dwindling. In the wake of the economic crisis that hit the United States in the early 1990s, then-deputy foreign minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned diplomatic correspondents to an urgent press conference where he warned that Israel had not made sufficient preparations to absorb the hundreds of thousands of Jews who would be immigrating to Israel from New York and Los Angeles. In the wake of the recent series of terror and anthrax attacks in the United States, immigration emissaries of the Jewish Agency are not reporting any long lineups. Furthermore, the gap in the natural increase rate between the Palestinian and Jewish populations has remained unchanged over the past number of years.

In a document he recently sent to members of the Israeli government, demographer Sergio della Pergola noted that, unless some sudden calamity befalls the West and forces Jews to immigrate to Israel, the small Jewish majority in the territory that, before May 1948, was British Mandatory Palestine will disappear by the end of the first decade of this century. Della Pergola, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, projects that, by 2010, Jews will constitute only 44 percent - at the most, 47 percent - of the population in the territory contained by the Jordan River on the east and by the Mediterranean Sea on the west. According to a "moderate" assessment, by 2050 the percentage of Jews in that territory's population will shrink to less than 37 percent - roughly equivalent to their share of the territory's population in the early 1930s.

Shortly before he was assassinated, Ze'evi submitted his letter of resignation from the government. The reason for his decision was his understanding that, for the "program" offered by Sharon (as well as those proposed by former U.S. president Bill Clinton and former prime minister Ehud Barak), there is simply no partner available. Ze'evi also knew that the Israeli establishment is not prepared to pay the price of peace, because that price includes far-reaching concessions over Jerusalem and over the Palestinian refugees. Although he was an extreme nationalist, Ze'evi was a responsible politician who refused to bury his head in the sand and to rely on the progress of time or on the messiah. The transfer idea is dead and has left Israelis with the old choice - a small Land of Israel that is Jewish and democratic, or a large Land of Israel that is Palestinian and has an apartheid-style regime.