It will be 20 years this September that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands at a peace signing on the south lawn of the White House. I remember sitting there surrounded by Palestinians and Israelis, relieved deep down that the conflict might be winding down with a compromise that would create two states, Israel and Palestine.
Two years later, Rabin would be murdered by an Israeli terrorist member of the settler movement and disciple of extremist politician Benjamin Netanyahu. The fanatic Ariel Sharon would eventually succeed Rabin and torpedo peace by provoking Palestinians with incendiary, non-peaceful rhetoric.
We have been living in suffering ever since. People have died on both sides, mostly Palestinians but some Israelis. During the two decades of peace decay, extremism has grown on both sides. Netanyahu has become the face of rejectionism and Hamas has solidified its power in the Gaza Strip.
When Sharon had the chance to reinforce peace, he chose instead to reinforce extremism by withdrawing not from the West Bank but from the Gaza Strip, ironically in September, 2005. The “withdrawal” gave Hamas a huge political victory but turned Gaza into an outdoor prison surrounded on all sides by Israel’s military.
During even the brief moments when peace had a chance, the Israelis maintained their deceit by continuing to expand the illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank when we were at the peace table together and when we were not.
Today, the West Bank has been sliced and diced by Israeli racism and despite my deep conviction in support of the two-state solution, unless Israel is willing to withdraw from huge tracts of land taken during the past 20 years, it is unlikely that two states will happen.
Most likely, we will only have one state: an apartheid-like Israel lording it militarily over a growing non-Jewish population. But the balance of population is increasingly tipping in favor of the Palestinians and “non-Jews.”
It’s hard to get precise population data but based on several sources, here’s what I have come up with.
There are a total of eight million people in Israel, broken down as six million Jews and almost two million non-Jews, including about 200,000 Druze. There are four million people in the West Bank, nearly 3.5 million Palestinians and more than 500,000 Israeli settlers.
Hey, if Israel wants to take it all and annex the West Bank, go ahead. I am not against that. The total population would be 12 million, with 6.5 million Jews and 5.5 million non-Jews. That’s what people refer to as the “demographic bomb” that Israel has created through its refusal to compromise by clinging to the illegal settlements and failing to formally recognize an independent Palestinian State in the West Bank.
The handshake that took place between Rabin and Arafat seemed like it happened only yesterday. But of course, 20 years will have passed by this September. Twenty years that went by in what seems like the blink of an eye.
Well, that 20 years is Israel’s problem. During these two decades, the Palestinian population in the West Bank grew from two million to 3.5 million. Percentage wise, the Israeli settler population grew at a faster pace from 250,000 to 500,000, including, of course, East Jerusalem and the West Bank land annexed around Jerusalem.
I am going to hazard a guess here. That if 20 more years pass, the Palestinian, non-Jewish population will increase far faster than the expansion of the illegal and racist Jewish settlements that Israel continues to build on stolen Christian and Muslim lands.
I would guess that the Palestinian population in 2033, 20 years from today, will double as it did during the past 20 years. Israel’s Jewish population will also increase measurably but not so dramatically.
And here is how we might picture the one-state solution and the creation of the new Palestinian State called “Israel.” Israel’s population will grow to 10 million people, with 7.25 million Jews and 2.75 million Palestinians and non-Jews. And the West Bank population under Israel’s control will grow to seven million people, with six million Palestinians and one million illegal Jewish settlers.
That means the new State of Israel will have 17 million people, 8.25 million Jews and 8.75 million non-Jews. You can call that scenario whatever you want. But I call that the future Palestinian State.
Ray Hanania is an Arab-American Palestinian Christian journalist, professional communicator, media consultant, author, standup comedian, satirist, filmmaker, radio talk show host. He covered Chicago City Hall for 16 years from 1976 through 1992, including every Chicago Mayor "from Daley to Daley." He is a two-time winner of Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick-O-Type Award. In 1990 he was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times as Pulitzer Prize candidate.