Now, I'm really confused. After 10 years of telling us that Israel had to withdraw from the territories in order to "save its soul," the Left has now trained its sights on our bodies instead, arguing that demographics leave us with no choice but to carry out a unilateral pullback.
Citing claims made by various academics that the number of non-Jews west of the Jordan River now equals, or even surpasses, the number of Jews, everyone from Shimon Peres to Ehud Olmert has come out in favor of abandoning Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
This, they say, will ensure that Israel maintains a strong Jewish majority, preserving the Jewish character of the state as well as its democratic ideals.
At first glance, this might seem reasonable. But, like most of the Left's policy prescriptions in the 10 years since Oslo, it does not withstand even a few moments of scrutiny.
To begin with, an Israeli withdrawal would entail forgoing control over who enters the territories, since by default they would be under total Palestinian rule. Hence, the moment Israel leaves, there would be nothing to prevent the millions of Palestinian refugees from around the Middle East from pouring into Judea, Samaria and Gaza, sharply increasing the non-Jewish majority west of the Jordan River still further.
Indeed, according to statistics compiled by the United Nations, there are some 2.5 million Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan alone. A nascent Palestinian state would certainly do its utmost to bring the majority of them back to "Palestine," and the euphoria surrounding its establishment would likely draw many to return, driven by the hope of improving their lives and leaving behind the misery of the refugee camps.
Ironically, by withdrawing in order to counter the demographic threat, Israel might actually find itself facing a Palestinian entity equal to or greater in population. Presently, Israel can at least regulate the number of people entering the territories. But once we leave, we would no longer be able to do so.
Moreover, if we take the demographic argument to its logical conclusion, there is no reason to stop redrawing the border at the 1967 Green Line. For if, as the Left suggests, Israel should limit its sovereignty to areas with a strong Jewish majority while pulling back from heavily populated Arab regions, why focus only on Judea, Samaria and Gaza?
After all, the population of the Galilee has an Arab majority, so perhaps Israel should lower the flag over the north of the country as well? And large sections of the Negev in the south are dominated by local Beduin tribes, so why not withdraw from that too? Then, of course, there are towns in central Israel, such as Ramle and Jaffa, with large Arab populations, as well as Acre along the northern coast.
To be frank, if we are going to insist on limiting our national reach to areas with a solid Jewish majority, then perhaps we should confine the State of Israel to the downtown Tel Aviv area. Or, we might want to go one step further: Declare Brooklyn, New York, to be the Jewish state and call it quits in the Middle East altogether.
THE FACT of the matter is that over the past century, demographics have thankfully never played much of a role in determining the future of the Jewish state.
Thankfully, because if they had, the State of Israel might never have been declared in the first place.
In 1922, for instance, the British mandatory authorities conducted a survey of Palestine and found that the Jewish population was just 84,000 while the number of Arabs was 643,000, or nearly 8 times as large. Had world Jewry resigned itself to the demographic realities of the time, they would never have campaigned for Israel's establishment.
In 1948, on the eve of independence, Arabs actually outnumbered Jews by more than 2 to 1 in the area under British mandatory rule. Had David Ben-Gurion allowed the dictates of demographics to prevail, he would never have declared the formation of the Jewish state.
This is not to say that numbers are not important, because they clearly do need to be taken into account when formulating policy. But it does suggest that demography should not be given undue weight in deciding on fateful issues such as the future of the country's borders.
Indeed, with just a little bit of creative thinking, even the issue of demography can be solved without having to resort to measures such as withdrawal.
For, in addition to all the standard ideas already out there, such as encouraging world Jewry to make aliya, or providing Israeli mothers with incentives to be more fruitful and start multiplying, there remains a vast, untapped resource that has been largely overlooked: descendants of Jews seeking to return to the Jewish people.
Groups such as the Bnei Menashe of northeastern India, who claim descent from a lost tribe of Israel, or the crypto-Jews of Spain, Portugal and South America, whose ancestors were converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition, are clamoring to return to Judaism, and many wish to make aliya.
The potential is immense. Thousands of Bnei Menashe wish to move here, while the Spanish-speaking world is said by academics to contain millions of people with Jewish blood coursing through their veins.
Nevertheless, neither the Israeli government nor the Jewish Agency is willing to reach out to such groups, perhaps because doing so requires "thinking outside the box," which is not what bureaucracies typically excel at.
But these groups constitute a large, untapped demographic and spiritual reservoir for Israel and the Jewish people. They are knocking on our national door, pleading to be let in. So if Israel's policymakers are truly concerned with numbers, let them take up the task of addressing this challenge forthwith.
Enabling "lost Jews" to return will not only restore these precious souls to our people, but it might just provide the answer to our demographic needs as well. Qualitatively and quantitatively, Israel has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, from doing so.
The writer served is director of Amishav, a Jerusalem-based group which reaches out and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people.