Hourglasses don’t tick, and therefore they do not disturb those who wish to let time do its thing, quietly. Nonetheless, they have a drawback: At one point in time, the sand runs out. Suddenly everything stops and the hourglass must be turned upside down to keep functioning.
The silent hourglass brings both Jews and Palestinians closer, every day and every hour, to a reality of one state for the two peoples. Sometimes it’s referred to as a bi-national state, or the Greater Land of Israel, or Greater Palestine. Usually it’s given no name. It’s simply a little more than what we have right now. Not much time is left; the hourglass is almost empty.
Two processes are taking place simultaneously: The natural growth of the Palestinian population, and the natural and political growth of the settler population. Palestinian natural growth indeed slowed down in the past decade, because of the rising standard of living, but this does not change the overall picture.
Some 2.2 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, and another 1.6 million Palestinians live within the territory of the tiny Israel. This totals 3.8 million Palestinians, vis-à-vis 6.2 million Jews and those defined as “others” – that is, Jews according to the Law of Return, but not according to Jewish law.
This is a solid 60% majority, as long as we ignore the Gaza Strip, which was detached from Israel. According to reasonable estimates, Gaza is home to some 1.7 million Palestinians.
If that’s the case, the Jews maintain a majority in the territory of Israel, Judea, Samaria and Gaza: We have 6.2 million, compared to 5.2 million on the other said. There’s nothing to worry about.
Jewish state? Not quite
Well, there is something to worry about. The “Greater Israel,” minus Gaza, is today already a geographical area with 62% Jews and 38% Palestinians. Practically, this is not a Jewish state. It is a bi-national state, where the majority will not be able to do as it pleases. HaTikva, for example, would not be its anthem.
After they fully despair of the prospect of establishing their own state, the 38% of Palestinians will demand to realize their civil rights by voting for a joint parliament, and so on and so forth.
However, the “State of Palestine” in the West Bank will also be a bi-national state. Today, some 340,000 Jews live in Judea and Samaria. Another 60,000 young Jews live in religious boarding schools in the area, including in illegal settlements. Another 300,000 Jews live in Jerusalem’s annexed neighborhoods in the east and north of the city. In total, some 700,000 Jews reside in the pre-1967 West Bank borders, constituting about one-third of the population there.
Should a Palestinian state be established on the West Bank’s entire territory, it would be bi-national to begin with.
The only thing separating the notion of two states for two peoples from a reality of one state for two people sharing it (for lack other choice) is the 1993 Oslo Accord – or more accurately, the final remnants of that agreement. But they are dissipating quickly. Is it still possible to save Oslo?
Possibly yes, but the chances aren’t high. The geographic compromise map that would satisfy both the Jewish people’s and Palestinian people’s national aspiration will necessarily be complex, with the fingers of one people digging into the flesh of the other. As to the evacuation and resettlement of hundreds of thousands of people – it won’t happen.
Hence, as it reaches its heyday, the Jewish state is making way for a Jewish-Palestinian state. Yet we, the preoccupied and satisfied majority, are not hearing the clock of destiny ticking. It is an hourglass.