Mahmoud Abbas's minority report
Shortly after negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians resumed, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared that he wouldn’t tolerate the presence of a single Jew in the future Palestinian state. Imagine if Scotland, which is supposed to hold a referendum on its independence next year, would declare that it shall not tolerate any Englishman (or Jew, for that matter) on its sovereign territory. While Abbas’ declared intolerance for minorities is plainly anti-Semitic, Western leaders let him get away with it.
The partition (or two-state) model has been applied to partially solve conflicts in other parts of the world, but nowhere does this model entail the absence of minorities. The Indian sub-continent was divided between India and Pakistan in 1947. Although this partition engendered a tragic mutual population transfer (about 7 million Muslims left India for Pakistan, and about 7 million Hindus and Sikhs left Pakistan for India), both countries retained minorities: there is a 14 percent Muslim minority in India, and a two percent Hindu minority in Pakistan.
In Cyprus, where there has been a de facto partition following the Turkish invasion and occupation since 1974, there are minorities on both sides of the divided island. Even though Turkey has expelled an estimated 200,000 Greeks Cypriots from the occupied North and has transferred Turkish settlers to take their place, minorities are to be found on both sides of the separation fence (the village of Pyla in the Turkish-occupied North has a mixed Greek and Turkish population). In March 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled over a property dispute in Cyprus that even when a property claim is proven, the occupying power should compensate the original owner of the land and not order the demolition of the settler’s house.
When Czechoslovakia dissolved into two separate states in 1993, neither the Czech Republic nor Slovakia got rid of the other side’s minorities: there is a 1.5 percent Slovak minority in the Czech Republic, and a 0.5 percent Czech minority in Slovakia.
Since the Second World War, there have been many cases of partition and of territorial withdrawal. But in most cases, settlers stayed and were not asked to leave as part of a peace deal.
Between 1947 and 1956, Saarland was a French-occupied territory with French settlers moving there. When Saarland decided in 1957 to become part of Germany following a plebiscite, the French population was not asked to leave.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, former Soviet republics became independent. Newly independent countries such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania asked the Russian settlers to leave, but Russia refused and the EU took the side of the Russian minorities, claiming that their forced transfer to Russia would constitute a human rights violation. In the end, the Russian minority was allowed to stay.
When Cambodia reached a peace agreement in Vietnam in 1991 after 13 years of Vietnamese occupation, the Vietnamese settlers were allowed to stay in Cambodia. When East Timor gained its independence in 2002 after 27 years of Indonesian occupation, the Indonesian settlers were not asked to leave as part of the peace deal.
So why should the Arab-Israeli conflict be an exception? If there is true peace, why shouldn’t Jews be allowed to stay as a minority in a Palestinian state? Why should there be an Arab minority in the Jewish state, but no Jewish minority in the Arab state? According to the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, there was to be a one percent Jewish minority in the Arab state and a 45 percent Arab minority in the Jewish state. Even though there was a wide gap between those two percentages, no one suggested at the time that partition entailed the absence of minorities. With over half a million Jews living in Judea and Samaria and in the eastern part of Jerusalem, a major population transfer is completely unrealistic.
This is why Prime Minister Netanyahu first suggested in 2011 the idea of having Jews remain as a minority in a Palestinian state. In his address to the US Congress in May 2011, he said the following: “I'm saying today something that should be said publicly by all those who are serious about peace. In any real peace agreement, in any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel's borders.”
The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) published a paper on April 8, 2013 (“Jewish Enclaves in a Palestinian State”) in which it was suggested that “The residents of some 65 small and isolated settlements with a total population of 36,000 who decide to remain in their homes will be able to retain their Israeli citizenship and also receive Palestinian citizenship. These settlements will be under the full sovereignty of the Palestinian state…Those who remain in these settlements will be subject to the sovereignty and the laws of the Palestinian state, as Israeli Arabs are subject to the sovereignty of the State of Israel.”
So the fact that Abbas is rejecting the idea of retaining a Jewish minority in a Palestinian state is not only anti-Semitic. It would also turn the resolution the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the only case of a two-state solution in which only one state retains a minority belonging to the other state. Abbas’ “minority opinion” not only says a lot about his liberal credentials; it also says a lot about the West’s double-standards.
Dr. Emmanuel Navon heads the Political Science and Communication Department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College and teaches International Relations at Tel-Aviv University and at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. He is a Senior Fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum.