The single new development which Israel and the United States managed to extract from the Annapolis meeting consists of redefining the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in baffling terms. Those terms invite positing the central issue to be addressed as the suffering not of the Palestinian but of the Israeli, and the national rights to be rescued and internationally safeguarded as not those of the oppressed native Palestinian people but rather those of the Israeli oppressors. Beyond oppressing the Palestinians and occupying their land, Israel managed, under the auspices of this latest U.S. peace initiative, to strip the Palestinians even of their position as victim and to appropriate that very position as well.
In this way, Annapolis sought to establish the hegemony of the Israeli demographic narrative over the geographic narrative. It enabled the demographic project of the "Jewish character" of the Israeli state to supersede the expansionist geographic project of "Greater Israel" and to force it into obsolescence. The triumph of the demographic narrative served, furthermore, to place the national Palestinian-Arab minority in Israel in the eye of the storm.

Extracting Legitimacy for Demography

Israel's primary preoccupation has now become wresting international, Arab and Palestinian recognition of the Zionist project for a racially Jewish state, and giving international legitimacy to this "coup" against international legitimacy, which is far more serious than the Hamas takeover of Gaza. Furthermore, this shift in focus will transform the issue of implementing the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the safeguarding of their security and presence on their land, which are being constantly threatened and violated by 60 years of occupation. Instead, it will become an issue of expanding the right to self-determination practiced by Israel to fit within the parameters of Zionist ideological concepts. Ensuring Israel's security and its Jewish character will not be carried out through ensuring the security of the Palestinian people. Rather, in return for giving up their rights, the Palestinians will be allowed to see an improvement in their living conditions under siege, in the shadow of a choking dependency on the Israeli occupation, and at the expense of their national rights.
By overturning the concepts, giving prominence to the demographic discourse and tying the political process to squeezing out a Palestinian recognition of the "Jewishness" of Israel, Israel is setting out to get even more than two birds with one stone. One aim is to scrap the right of return for Palestinian refugees according to legitimate international resolutions, and to divest Israel of the responsibility for causing the Nakba, under the pretext that a return would disrupt the Jewish character of the state and its demography. Another intention is to abort the fight of the Arab national minority in Israel to stay in their homeland, since it is the only one they have, and to frustrate their dogged struggle to obtain equal civil and national rights inside Israel, as well as to deny them the legitimacy of citizenship status. The Arab citizens of Israel will, thus, be hindered from joining the democratic and peace forces in Israel and will be subjected to the dangers of population transfer and swap projects.
The focus of Israel and the dominant groups within it on the concept of the Jewish character of the state at a time when the historic guarantees for this concept have collapsed, and the pioneering ethos informing Hebrew labor in agricultural, social solidarity, and the kibbutzim has disappeared, betrays the racist content of Israel's objectives behind this slogan. One of the notable expressions of this policy has been the exclusion of the Arab citizens of Israel from the sphere of direction-shaping or influence-wielding, and the political and democratic game that Israel professes to uphold.

Two States for Two Peoples

Israel relies on flimsy arguments when it tries to bolster its discourse about the Jewish character of the state by basing its legitimacy on the UN Partition Plan resolution of November 29, 1947. The Partition Plan affirmed the principle of self-determination in the concept of two states for two peoples. We historically have adopted its principles and still do, according to our own understanding: The Partition Plan means primarily that the legitimacy of Israel remains incomplete without the enactment of the other half, i.e., the attainment by the Arab Palestinian people of their legitimate right to self-determination in their own independent, free and sovereign state.
The Partition Plan did not only not talk about a Jewish state in its ethnic sense, but also about a Jewish state with a Jewish majority, with 40% of its citizens Arab Palestinians, alongside an Arab Palestinian state. Israel, in our understanding, was never, and will never be, only a Jewish state - not according to international legitimacy, including the Partition Plan, and not according to the reality on the ground that has arisen throughout the 60 years of Israel's attempts to bury the national rights of the Palestinian people. Israel, which was created within the framework of a UN resolution ending British colonization and stipulating the right to self-determination for two peoples - Arab and Jewish - in two states in Palestine, is today also a state with a Jewish majority that has a large ethnic Arab minority. And that Arab minority is determined to remain in its homeland and to pull its weight and use its influence. This minority is also intent on achieving equality in civil and national rights inside Israel, and not in a Palestinian state. It is not a national minority that has descended upon Israel; it is a minority in its own homeland. It is Israel that has descended upon it.

Using Demographics to Dodge Responsibility

Israel's continued preoccupation with the mentality of averting a demographic danger to the Jewish character of the state has become a threat to peace, equality and human rights in Israel itself and in the region as a whole. Israel is placing the responsibility of ensuring the Jewishness of the state for the future upon the shoulders of its Arab citizens, who are victims of a policy of racial discrimination and national persecution. It is exposing 20% of its Arab citizens to projects of population swaps with occupying settlers, to population transfers, to deportation and to the revocation of their legitimate rights. These developments are a clear indicator of the extent of the collapse of the democracy that Israel vaunts, and of depths to which have sunk Israel's regard for peace, equality and human rights. It underscores the fact that confronting Israel's insistence in maintaining the Jewish character of the state and its concern about the demographic threat is not the responsibility of the Arab minority of Israel alone, but has become the duty of all believers in democracy and peace worldwide.
Israel's choice, backed by the U.S., to overturn at the Annapolis conference the agreed-upon understanding of the conflict and to extract from the international community a recognition of the demographic dimension of the conflict was not a spontaneous choice - neither in venue nor in timing. The official Israel that is now governed by a racist demographic discourse is attempting to find a legitimate and recognized place for it within a U.S.-led world order. It does not proceed from the right of the people to self-determination, liberation and state-building; instead, it is based upon the concept of the displacement of peoples, the fragmentation of states, and the establishment of suspect ethnic, religious or sectarian entities. These phenomena can be seen in various regions, from the former Yugoslavia to Iraq and Lebanon, from Afghanistan to Central Asia, and even from Darfur to the East African states. The inclusion by Israel of the demographic solution and the Jewish character of the state into the negotiation process with the Palestinians will only result in the complete disintegration of the political process.

A 'New' Solution to a 'New' Issue

Israel is using the issue of demographics and the Jewishness of the state as a scare tactic in order to block the road to the conclusion of a just peace and a fair solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees. Israel has refused to recognize the rights of a quarter of a million Palestinian refugees who are citizens of Israel and who are refugees in their own homeland, and it has forbidden them to use their lands and their destroyed villages. Such policies reveal that the state's apprehension is not confined only to its fear of demographic imbalance: The refugees in Israel are Israeli citizens, and therefore, restoring their rights to them does not provoke any demographic imbalance. What Israel is actually concerned about is its refusal to recognize its responsibility for the Nakba of the Palestinian people and for their national rights. Giving prominence to the demographic threat allows it to justify its rejectionist stance towards endeavors at peace-making.
The Israeli leadership, in consonance with the American administration, is trying to build up an erroneous new concept for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in order to enable it to draw up an equally erroneous new solution to it - a solution that lies outside international legitimacy and far from the concepts of national liberation, independence and the rights of nations. Within this framework, the 1967 borders are not the crux of the conflict but the key to solving it. They do not reflect the intricacies of this complex struggle, but offer a practical opportunity to circumvent it.