Courtesy Reuters

Israel and the West Bank: The Implications of Permanent Control

As a territorial entity, the West Bank can almost no longer be separated from Israel. Menachem Begin and his government have seemingly already achieved their central ideological objective of creating the undivided, because it is already indivisible, land of Israel. Weeping over U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and all that supposedly flows from them, such as the Camp David Accords, appears to be precisely that: an act of piety toward intentions that have been defeated on the ground.

It is necessary, first of all, to understand what Israeli policy on the West Bank really represents. Israel's government is in no hurry to annex the West Bank in law. On the day of such an annexation, the Arab population in the "undivided" land of Israel would approach two-fifths. The well-known demographic argument that, within measurable time, a high Arab birthrate would produce a majority, is probably not true, because the rate of emigration from the West Bank has been, both under the Jordanians and now under the Israelis, fairly large. Trained younger people are going south toward the oil kingdoms, or west to America, in search of roles and fortunes that they could not achieve in the stagnant economy of the West Bank. Thus the Arab population has not been growing at a rate equal to the high birth rate in the region.

Two countertendencies are likely to continue in some fashion and to cancel each other out. The drift of the Arab intelligentsia and professionals to leave Israel will continue, probably at a faster rate. Increased Jewish building in the West Bank is, however, providing a living for thousands of Arab workers, and they will remain. The percentage of Arab population in the undivided Israel may thus grow beyond its present near-40 percent, but the nature of that population will have changed. From Israel's point of view, a more proletarian community will be politically more manageable. Some Likud ideologues are willing to face the prospect of annexation and of an

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