Jewish Settlers and Israeli Arabs as obstacle to Peace

One reason for my pessimism for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the feckless Palestinian leadership. The other is the issue of Jewish settlers in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and ironically the Israeli Arabs. It is basically a demographic issue. According to the CIA World Factbook, there are about 365,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem (about 6% of the population) and about 19.9% of the population is not Jewish most of which is Arab.

Now, any settlement with the Palestinians will involve withdrawing from most of West Bank and Gaza and some of Jerusalem as well (in my opinion, a solution without some part of Jerusalem being part of the Palestinian state will be unaceptable to the Palestinians.) That means withdrawal of the Jewish settlements from the Palestinian state as most of the settlers won’t want to live in an Arab state. The percentage of settlers in the voting population has increased quite a lot in recent years and would increase in the future as well. Even if there is a stop to further settlement, the settlers’ share of the vote would probably increase as they are in general more religious than the general population and hence would have a higher birth rate. Self-interest being one of the more important of motivations for people everywhere, why should they vote themselves out of their homes? This will be especially true for the generation born in those settlements. This would mean that for an Israeli government to win elections based on their committment to peace requires them to win really big within the Green Line. And that’s where the Israeli Arabs create a further complication. Since these Arabs are close relatives of the Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza, no Israeli government can rely on them as the deciding factor for a peace settlement. The decision to give up territory for peace has to be made by the Jewish population. Demographics again make the situation rather bleak as the Israeli Arabs have a higher birth rate than the Israeli Jews, making the election of an Israeli government agreeing to a Palestinian state more difficult with time.

OK, I am feeling very pessimistic now.

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