Jewish Journal


On Caroline Glick’s Pedantic Counting of Palestinians

by Shmuel Rosner

March 25, 2014 | 3:31 am

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces further peace talks at a news conference with Israel's Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat at the State Department in Washington on July 30, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

I have not yet had the chance to read all of Caroline Glick's new book. It is called "The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East". I'm sure it's well written, like most of Glick's prose, and that it passionately, if somewhat humorlessly (surely, these are serious matters), presents her ideas to the readers, as is Glick's habit. Seth Lipsky, who seems to have liked the book, wrote that "what is most important in the Glick book is her willingness to assert Jewish rights in the land of Israel, not only within the 1967 lines but in Judea and Samaria, aka the West Bank. What a refreshing change from what we’ve so often heard in the generation of dickering since the 1993-1995 Oslo Accords, which handed the West Bank to the PLO". If she does actually make a reasonable case for Jewish rights in the land, that's a worthy contribution to the bookshelf. Reading a couple of dozen pages from the book, and Lipsky's review, and the text promoting the book on Amazon, and some other references, I'm a little concerned, though, not about the idea of having "rights" in the land, but rather about the practical conclusions Glick draws from it.

I'm concerned, because her case seems to rest on very shaky legs. In short, here's what she says:

  1. The fact the two state solution has not yet materialized is not for lack of trying, but rather because this solution can't work.
  2. Hence, we better look for a better solution.
  3. Why not let Israel control the whole area?

The usual answer one gets to point C has two parts: if Israel controls the area it will be guilty of disenfranchising Palestinians of their political rights – and if it gives Palestinians political rights, namely, the right to be citizens and vote, Israel will lose its Jewish character.

Glick doesn't see it that way. Conveniently, she found the demographers that agree with her. The whole notion of Israel losing its Jewish character rests on the assumption that annexing the West Bank will add to Israel a vast number of Palestinians and will eventually result in losing Israel's Jewish majority. Nonsense, says Glick. The Palestinian numbers are exaggerated. Of course, she isn't the first person to make such a claim. Uri Sadot made a similar claim recently in an article in Foreign Policy. Yoram Ettinger has been making it for years. Now Glick will popularize the idea: "The demographic argument put forward by pro-Palestinian one-staters and by champions of the two-state paradigm presents Israel with a false choice between its democracy and its Jewish character". The numbers on which this "paradigm" rely are "fraudulent", no less. "Even if all the Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria are granted Israeli citizenship, Jews would still remain a two-thirds majority of the citizens of Israel", Glick writes.

To make it short: there is no Palestinian majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean (Gaza isn't part of this story, in that part of Glick's formulation). Hence, Israel can take over, absorb the Palestinians, and even see them respond to such a move with much less fury than what you might expect. Glick's "studies of both the Palestinians and the neighboring Arab states" have led her "to conclude that their responses to the application of Israeli law over Judea and Samaria will likely be far less dramatic and far more manageable than many observers warn".

Maybe so.

But what if Glick is the one that gets both the numbers and the presumed Palestinian response wrong? She is no expert on demographic trends, and the best that can be said about her case is that she raises reasonable questions on the validity of the currently accepted numerical claims. She argues (as does Tom Wilson in Commentary) that the numbers are a propaganda tool at the hands of the two-staters – and there's reason to suspect that this is indeed the case. But is she not guilty of the same misdeed? Is it just a coincidence that all those who claim there are less Palestinians than people think are also the proponents of a greater Israel and opponents of the peace process?

Moreover, there is something pedantic yet useless about this insistence on getting the numbers right. For the sake of argument, let us assume that Glick's numbers are more accurate than other assessments. Let's assume that the Palestinians would only be a third of the Israeli population if Israel annexes the West bank. Does that make such huge difference? Would that make Israelis want the Palestinian population of the West Bank to gain full Israeli citizenship?

A third – that's quite a minority. A third that is not going to easily melt into the majority culture. A third that is, in many ways, in opposition to the state in which it resides and votes. A third that is economically behind – a drag on Israel's economy for sure. A third that can comprise a sizable voting bloc. Glick addresses some of these concerns but, to put it mildly, not as convincingly as she might think. There are much too many assumptions that are based on, well, her "studies of the Palestinian" population. 

So to agree with Glick you'd have to accept her demographic case – against the many counter assessments that still exist. And you'd have to make a leap of faith and believe that an annexed Palestinian population is not going to completely change Israel and make it much less appealing to its current citizens.

And you'd have to also find an answer to a question that Glick doesn't quite address: what is the reason for the dogged perseverance of the two-state-solution? She rightly points out that the two-state-solution has reached a religious-like status with believers who are unwilling to acknowledge its perpetual failure to provide for a solution for Israel and the Palestinians. And she makes a reasonable claim: maybe the two-state-solution has failed because it is not a good solution. But a counter claim can also be made: the two-state-solution has been persistently promoted for so many years – disregarding all the failures that Glick, also religiously, documents – not because it is a good solution. It has been promoted because a better one has not yet been found. Not up until Glick's book – and, I suspect, not after it.

Tracker Pixel for Entry


View our privacy policy and terms of service.


The Israel Factor