Israel Science and Technology Directory

Arab-Israeli Conflict - Articles

Beating Israel without a battle - Demographic infiltration

By Ze'ev Schiff - November 21, 2001, Ha'Aretz

The question of how to defeat Israel without having to pay a heavy price is a subject on which Arab strategists continue to focus much energy.

The Arabs tried to vanquish Israel by launching an all-out war against the Jewish state and even managed to catch Israel off-guard; however, they were unable to defeat it.

Another strategy that has been tried out is guerrilla warfare, terrorism and popular uprisings. Here as well there has been failure or at least a lack of success - specifically, during the fedayeen period of the 1950s and later during the Palestine Liberation Organization's military struggle and the first intifada.

When Israel decided to withdraw from South Lebanon, without any signed agreement, because of pressure from Hezbollah, the event was perceived in the Arab world, particularly among the Palestinians, as a victory. The Israeli retreat inspired the Arab imagination and many Arabs are today toying with the idea that the best military strategy for defeating Israel is to operate in accordance with the Hezbollah model.

Recently, some people have begun to talk about a different strategy, which could be termed "demographic infiltration." The strategy has been coherently presented in two articles that have appeared in the London-based paper Al Hayat. Their author is Wahid Abd Al-Magid, editor of the annual strategic report published by the prestigious Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. According to Al-Magid, the success of this strategy is largely - but not exclusively - in the hands of Israel's Arab citizens. He therefore calls upon the Arab world to display a more positive attitude toward the Arabs who live within Israel's borders. Al-Magid projects that, by 2035, they will constitute a majority in the Israeli population.

However, he argues, there is no need to wait until then and to rely solely on the high natural increase rate of the Arabs. Instead, he counsels, the process should be accelerated and a wave of demographic infiltration should be generated. This wave would be the entry into Israel of tens of thousands of Palestinians, many of whom would marry women who are part of the "1948 population" (that is, who are Arabs residing in Israel).

The author certainly must recall the astonishment of the Palestinians and other Arabs in the face of the wave of mass immigration from the Soviet Union, a wave that narrowed the edge enjoyed by the Arabs in the demographic race with the Jews. Thus, he proposes that, simultaneously with the demographic infiltration, the Arabs should undermine the efforts of the Jewish Agency for Israel to persuade Jews to move to Israel. The Arabs should explain to candidates for immigration to Israel that the dangers and hardships there far outweigh the dangers and hardships in their present country of residence.

According to Al-Magid, the current spontaneous demographic infiltration into Israel is not sufficient. He proposes planning and organizing the infiltration in a thorough fashion, especially in Jordan and Egypt, so that the infiltration will take on the character of a comprehensive campaign. In line with his vision, he urges the creation of a Palestine that will once more be Arab, rather than a binational state: "An Arab Palestine whose Jewish residents will be persons who want to live under the wings of our culture while enjoying a strengthened and honored status: They will be neither the oppressors nor the oppressed."

The author has unfortunately forgotten to explain to which culture he is referring. Is he talking about the kind of Arab culture that is now expressing itself in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Lebanon? To achieve his goal, he says that there will be a need to exert on "Tel Aviv external pressure that will reduce its capacity to undertake the internal measures necessary for putting an end to - or reducing - the demographic threat it faces." He proposes that, if Israel tries to prevent this demographic infiltration, it should be accused of racism.

In the meantime, a form of demographic infiltration is already in progress. This variety does not display the careful planning Al-Magid advocates but instead is a spontaneous flood that began after the signing of the Oslo accords. Between 50,000 and 60,000 Palestinians, Jordanians and Egyptians have already crossed into Israel, taking up residence in Arab communities in Israel. Some of them have become involved in serious acts of terrorism and murder. This phenomenon represents the implementation - albeit through the backdoor - of what the Palestinians call the "right of return." The Israel Defense Forces calls these infiltrators IRs (or illegal residents).

When Palestinians who have Jordanian papers are caught, the Jordanians refuse to accept them. If they are transferred to the West Bank, they simply reinfiltrate into Israel. If they are transferred to the Gaza Strip, which is fenced off, the option of reinfiltration does not exist.

The above phenomenon is one of the most severe failures that Israel has chalked up and its severity is doubled when one considers the background of the armed intifada. Israel must deal with this phenomenon in a resolute, military manner and might even have to pass a new law to handle the problem.