The Arab-Israeli solution: Ingathering of the exiles
A two-state solution is a recipe for the destruction of Israel. By now it must be clear to everyone that the more that Israel withdraws from territory, the more terrorist organizations attack Israel.
The withdrawal from Lebanon resulted in attacks from Hezbollah and the Second Lebanon War. The “disengagement” from Gaza resulted in attacks from Hamas and Operation Cast Lead. Contrary to the expectations of peace-loving people, when Israel compromises, the terrorists attack. The goal of Hamas, Hezbollah, and even Fatah is not “the end of occupation”, but rather the destruction of Israel. What other explanation can there be for their attacks on a country that makes continuous compromises and peaceful gestures?
This being the case, Israel must reconsider its reality. A Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip poses an existential threat to Israel.
Unfortunately, without a Palestinian state, we are left with a demographic problem, which was the admitted impetus for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The Arab population inside of Israel, combined with the Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will soon outnumber the Jewish population. According to my college professor, demographer Dr. Sergio Della Pergola of the Hebrew University, Arabs will soon comprise the majority of the population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
“Disengaging” from Gaza, in Sharon’s calculation, would solve this problem. It would “disengage” Israel from a large Arab population, leaving them to govern themselves, and create an overwhelming Jewish majority in the remaining territory of Israel. Unfortunately, the solution has also brought upon Israel a whole slew of other, more serious, problems such as a southern Israel under constant missile attack.
There is another, albeit, less conventional solution: the ingathering of the exiles. During the British Mandate, Ze’ev Jabotinsky came before the British Royal Commission to convince them to continue their support for the establishment of a Jewish state, as they had promised to do. He argued that there were millions of Jews in Europe that would immigrate to the Jewish state, seeking a haven from anti-Semitism.
“The point when Jews will reach a majority in that country will not be the point of saturation yet, because 1 million more Jews in Palestine today you could already have a majority, but there are certainly 3 million or 4 million in the east who are virtually knocking at the door asking for admission, i.e., for salvation.” He was counting on Eastern European Jewry to populate the Jewish state. Unfortunately, Israel came into existence too late. Six million Jews, the population that Jabotinsky was counting on to create a Jewish majority, were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. Despite this, the “Jabotinsky Plan” can still work.
Several years ago, an organization called “Kulanu” was founded, aimed at reincorporating lost Jewish communities into the Jewish people. Communities exist throughout the world with clear Jewish genetic lineages and remnants of the Jewish religious and cultural heritage. These communities could number in the millions. They were also recently written about in a book called “Fragile Branches: Travels through the Jewsish Diaspora,” by James Ross. Many of these “lost Jews” dream of immigrating to Israel. Contrary to popular thought, this is in Israel’s best interest.
Several months ago, my friend, a rabbi, returned from Uganda, where as part of a rabbinic delegation, he taught and converted members of the Abuyudaya tribe. The Abuyudaya are not of Jewish ancestry, but have accepted Judaism as their tribal religion. My friend’s stories about this tribe led me to think that these lost Jews throughout the world could be the solution to Israel’s demographic quagmire. In order to implement the “Jabotinsky Plan,” we must send rabbinic delegations to such communities, to run conversion (or return to the Judaism) courses and officiate at conversion ceremonies. Theses people should also receive training in Hebrew, Zionism, and life in Israel — much like the hachsharah programs in pre-WWII Europe. We should then facilitate their immigration, en masse, to Israel and settle them in Judaea, Samaria, and Gaza. Israel must prepare to absorb these new immigrants. These millions of the “lost tribes” of Israel, returnees to the Jewish People, will serve as Jabotinsky’s millions.
When these communities make aliyah, the Jewish population will increase exponentially. The Jewish people will be the clear and uncontested majority in Eretz Israel. The Arab population will no longer serve as a demographic challenge to the preservation of a Jewish democracy. Israel will be able to assert its claim over the entire Land of Israel and render the movement for an additional Arab state ridiculous and obsolete. Israel will be able to annex Judaea, Samaria, and Gaza and grant full Israeli citizenship to the Arabs residing in these areas, since the Jewish population will still be larger than that of the Arabs.
You may find this idea to be farfetched and unconventional. Indeed, were my vision to come to fruition, it would most certainly change Israel forever. However, Israel would be sacrificing neither its strategic land areas nor its Jewish character nor its democratic rule by the majority.
Herzl envisioned a Jewish state in the image of Switzerland. Many Ashkenazi Israelis were shocked when they realized that Israel was quickly becoming half eidot hamizrach (composed of Middle Eastern Jewry). We will see an Israel which is fully Jewish, but whose Ashkenazi population is a small minority.
Embarking on the “Jabotinsky Plan” is the truest test of Zionism and our commitment to the return of our exiles, whatever the color of their skin. Israel is at a historic junction that will determine its very existence. I think that this idea just might work. If it does, it will insure Israel’s survival and change the course of Jewish and Israeli history forever.
Rabbi Shaffin is the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Or, Brick.