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Separate But Inseparable

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AS the Israeli and Palestinian representatives meet this month for another round of negotiations, they should take a much harder look at their people's inter-disbursement on the ground and examine how future demographic developments might affect their relations. This analysis will clearly indicate that only coexistence under separate political authority offers hope for a solution. Here is why:

First, more than 80 percent of the Palestinians in the area live within a 100-mile radius: nearly 1.6 million in Jordan, 900,000 in the West Bank, 700,000 in Gaza, 850,000 in Israel proper, and 350,000-400,000 in Lebanon. The remaining 18-20 percent are scattered in other Arab countries and around the world. Except for transfers of a limited number for family and other humanitarian reasons, most Palestinians will want to stay in their current places of residence for economic and political reasons.

Second, Israel was created as a Jewish state in answer to the Jews' millennium-long yearning to return to their ancestral land and reestablish their own commonwealth. Maintaining the Jewish national identity of the state safeguards the future of the country as the haven for Jews who opt to live in their homeland. For Israel to remain a Jewish state and a democracy requires a sustainable Jewish majority. Therefore, immigration of Jews to Israel will continue to top the Israeli national agenda. Most Israel i demographers agree that the Jewish population in Israel may go well over 5 million by 2000, especially if the flow of Soviet Jews resumes the 1990 level of 200,000 a year.

Third, the same demographers agree, however, that even if the Jewish population climbs to 5 million, an outright or creeping annexation of the West Bank and Gaza will obliterate the Jewish identity of Israel. For this reason alone, annexation now or at any time in the future must be ruled out. In addition, annexation would be severely condemned and probably resisted by the international community. At best, there would be tremendous pressure on Israel to offer the Palestinians equal political rights. By v irtue of the Palestinian birth rate alone, they could move toward a majority by 2030.


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