Chief Middle East Adviser Dennis Ross said at the President’s Conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday that the greatest risk at a time of sweeping change in the Middle East was to think that this was the time to sit still and “do nothing.”The argument is not new; it has been around for a long time. Simply put, the "demographic threat" argument is that if Israel does not give the territories to the Palestinian Arabs, then Israel will be faced with a majority of the people living in the area of the Palestine Mandate being Arab in a few years.
Ross said that while he understood the impulse to “stand pat” and avoid taking risks, certain realities – such as demographic trends that will present Israel with the dilemma of being either a Jewish or a democratic state – could not be “wished away.”
Ross’s comments seemed a gentle criticism of voices in the Israeli government saying that at a time when everything is changing in the Middle East, this is not the time for Israel to take far-reaching risks, not knowing what will be tomorrow in countries such as Syria, Egypt and even Jordan.
Obama, in his speech on the Middle East at the State Department last month, made a very similar statement.
Others, notably Yoram Ettinger, have spent a lot of time debunking the basic argument that demographics are so much in the Arabs' favor.
But there is another more subtle issue with the "demographic threat" argument. It is based on a very flawed assumption. The people who make this argument may not entirely realize the logical flaws in their assertions.
Their assumption is that a Palestinian Arab state must be based on the 1949 armistice lines.
However, even if a much smaller Palestinian Arab state is created, one that takes into account Israel's security requirements, then the demographic issue disappears as well.
Over 95% (perhaps as many as 98.5%) of Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank live in Areas A or B.
If there is going to be a Palestinian Arab state, it will include all of Areas A and B.
In other words, over 95% of the Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria already live in areas that would become part of a Palestinian Arab state under any Israeli peace offer, right or left wing.
To put it bluntly: if Mahmoud Abbas declared a Palestinian Arab state in Areas A and B (and Gaza) today, even though they take up less than half of the West Bank, the demographic issue disappears.
So the "demographic threat" is a fantasy. If the Palestinian Arabs would accept any of Israel's peace offers, their state - no matter what size - would eliminate this threat.
The viewpoint that Israeli intransigence is creating a demographic threat is exactly backwards. It is Palestinian Arab refusal to compromise with Israel - and bring freedom to their people - that is artificially creating and aggravating this issue.
In fact, this threat is part of a Palestinian Arab strategy to pressure Israel to make concessions, because Palestinian Arabs have insisted on an "all or nothing" approach to peace with Israel. The slightest compromise on their part would create a Palestinian Arab state that would take away this so-called threat completely.
The world has swallowed this "all or nothing" thinking, believing that Palestinian Arab insistence on its maximal demands cannot be modified. So the world tends to conflate the "demographic threat" with "1967 lines."
If President Obama and Dennis Ross and J-Street and Americans for Peace Now and Walt and Mearsheimer and Thomas Friedman and Roger Cohen and Jeffrey Goldberg and a host of other pundits and politicians are so concerned over this supposed threat, the only logical thing for them to do is to pressure the Palestinian Arabs to accept a compromise that would give them a state as soon as possible, and to dismiss their maximal demands that they have made since Oslo. It is PalArab stubbornness that has kept this threat in the forefront of the conversation. Even the smallest state would ensure that this threat disappears.
Because the demographic threat is not a result of Israeli intransigence - it is directly because of the Palestinian Arab refusal to compromise.