March 23, 2015


Occupation of West Bank raises questions about Israel's claim to be a democracy (The Associated Press, 3/22/15)

[A]mong Israelis themselves, there is increasing angst over the fact that their country of 8 million people also controls some 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians who have no voting rights for its parliament.

If the 2 million Palestinians of Gaza -- a territory dominated indirectly by Israel -- were added to the equation, then together with the 2 million Arab citizens of "Israel proper" the Holy Land would be home to a population of some 12 million, equally divided between Arabs and Jews.

Of the Arabs, only a third have voting rights. These are the "Israeli Arabs" who live in the areas that became Israel in the 1948-49 war, which established the country's borders.

Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 but Israel never annexed them, both for fear of world reaction and due to concerns about millions more Palestinians gaining the vote.

Israelis argue that since the areas are not formally part of Israel, the goings-on therein do not undermine the democracy claim. And some might note that few democracies are perfect; after all, some 4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico cannot vote for the U.S. president because of that island's unusual arrangement. In the end, perhaps, these things are a matter of degree.

But critics increasingly consider it a little too convenient: Israel builds towns by the score in these non-annexed lands -- communities which have bestowed an oddly controversial aspect upon the once-innocent term "settlements."

Through an amendment to the electoral law, Israel allows the settlers who live in these places to vote in its elections even though it otherwise has no provision for absentee balloting. Several top Cabinet figures, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, are in this extraordinary fashion not technically residents of Israel.

And Israel holds undeniable power over the lives of West Bank's Palestinians, despite their ostensive autonomy. In just one example, Palestinians with great fanfare built a new city in their territory -- only for it to remain uninhabited in part because Israel has prevented the building of access roads and other infrastructure.

The supposedly temporary arrangement shows no sign of a change -- at least not one initiated by Israel.

"Israel is galloping toward an anti-democratic, bi-national future saturated with hatred and racism," wrote columnist Ravit Hecht in the liberal Haaretz daily, echoing the rising stridency that has taken root among liberals in the days since the vote.

You can either be a democrat or against the the two-state solution. 
Posted by at March 23, 2015 3:53 PM

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