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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

'Palestinians' want to be Israeli

Last week, I blogged a story regarding a report by the left-leaning Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies that indicated that dividing Jerusalem would only make demographic issues worse for Israel:
Thus while Israel can cede east Jerusalem neighborhoods, it cannot cede east Jerusalem residents, the report says: They would have to be offered the option of moving elsewhere in Israel. And it requires no great intelligence to realize that most of them would exercise that option - not because they love Israel, but because Israel has jobs, and the Palestinian Authority does not.


But not only would dividing the city do nothing to improve Israel's demographic balance, it would significantly worsen Israel's financial balance: Since permanent residents and citizens have almost identical rights, the report said, residents of any neighborhoods Israel cedes would be entitled to compensation, whether they choose to go or stay.

Those who choose to remain Israeli residents will, like the Gaza settlers, have been forced to leave their homes by a government decision to withdraw from the areas in question. They could thus presumably demand the same compensation: for their homes, for moving expenses and, in the case of those who would be giving up local jobs or businesses, for loss of income as well. Those who opt to remain in their homes and give up their Israeli residency, in contrast, will lose valuable benefits such as Israeli health insurance and social security. And since that loss, again, will have resulted from Israel's decision to abandon these areas, they, too, would be entitled to compensation, JIIS argues.

In short, dividing Jerusalem would more than triple the amount of compensation Israel would have to pay its own residents under any agreement. Hitherto, most Israelis have assumed that at most some 80,000 settlers (those outside the settlement blocs) would have to be evacuated and compensated. But if JIIS is correct, dividing Jerusalem would raise the number of Israeli residents entitled to compensation to some 280,000.
This morning, we see proof that a large number of 'East Jerusalem' 'Palestinians' are opting to stay in Israel by requesting Israeli citizenship.

YNet reports that some 3000 'East Jerusalem' 'Palestinians' have requested Israeli citizenship in the last four months, as compared with an average of 300 per year in the years since the city was reunified in 1967, which is when 'East Jerusalem's 'Palestinians' became eligible to request Israeli citizenship. The reason should be obvious: Having become accustomed to living with Israel's freedom (and money), they don't want to have to live in a 'Palestinian' state reichlet. Israel's interior ministry is unequipped for the onslaught: The next appointment available is in April 2008.
As accepting Israeli citizenship was viewed by many within the community as tantamount to treason, most Palestinians opted to remain permanent residents and enjoy the benefits of living under Israeli sovereignty – full welfare rights, municipal voting rights and unrestricted movement - without putting their loyalty to the Palestinian Authority into question. The average Palestinian family in East Jerusalem currently receives a $770 monthly stipend from Israel.

"They've weighed the pros and cons of life under the Palestinian Authority and those under Israel and they've chosen," said residents in East Jerusalem of their naturalization-seeking neighbors.
As an Israeli I find that dollar figure staggering (and it sure explains where much of my tax money goes). But not for the reason many of you find it astounding. The government does not cut a bunch of $770 checks every month. It's more complicated than that.

The 'stipend' likely has two components: a National Institute of Insurance (NII) grant that is paid for each child under the age of 16, and "income guarantees" (havtachat hachnasa). Until 1992, the Arabs, many of whom have large families, received much less NII money than Jews. The reason is that there were two payment rates: one for those who had served in the army and one for those who had not. Most Arabs do not serve in the army here (in Jerusalem, I would guess that no Arabs serve in the army). Many Israeli Jews who had not served in the army received a stipend from the education ministry that made up the difference between the two rates. But the Arabs got lower stipends.

In 1992, the newly empowered Labor government (the Rabin-Peres government) decided that the way NII payments were structured was discriminatory against the Arabs. So they made the monthly NII grants uniform. Subsequently, the NII grants were raised for the fifth child and beyond (in political horse trading), but when Binyamin Netanyhau became finance minister under Ariel Sharon, he succeeded in lowering them.

To put this in perspective, the most children we ever had aged 16 and under at the same time was six. (Eldest daughter is 20.5 years older than youngest son). The largest NII grant we got was about $700 per month, before Netanyahu became finance minister. Today, our NII grant is about $240 per month and five of our children are aged 16 and under. Each of us (Mrs. Carl and I) pays far more than that in monthly NII fees (admittedly NII does other things too - but this isn't the place for that discussion).

If the average 'East Jerusalem' Arab is getting $770 per month, they are either getting a very large income support payment (I would not know how much those are), or they have a huge number of children. And we are told regularly that the poverty rates among Jerusalem's Arabs are among the highest in the nation. Hmm.
33-year-old Samar Qassam said his motivation to apply for Israeli citizenship was to seek a better future for his family. Along with his wife and son, Qassam once lived in the Old City but recently moved to Beit Safafa, an Arab village south of Jerusalem [and one of the few in Jerusalem that was actually part of the State of Israel before 1967. CiJ].

"I was born in Jerusalem, this is where I grew up and this is where I make my living. My entire life is here. My wife comes from the West Bank, so I do fear she may be deported and therefore filed a naturalization request for her as well. I want to keep living here with my wife and child without having to worry about our future. That's why I want an Israeli citizenship," Qassam said.

"I don't know what the future holds. There's talk of the Palestinian Authority coming to Jerusalem. Personally, I don't think that will happen. But only God knows what will happen. I work as a mechanic for an Israeli company, I have both Jewish and Arab friends. I speak Hebrew and go out to Tel Aviv and Akko in the evenings. I just want a better future," he said.
I can't say I blame him. He doesn't sound like the type of guy who is likely to end up a suicide bomber either.

There's an important point that needs to be understood here. For many years, it's been the right who have argued that we can have Arabs living in Israel so long as they are not terrorists and they don't change Israel's character as a Jewish state. And it's been the left that says that we can't have any Arabs in Israel because otherwise we will have to choose between being a Jewish state and a democracy, and choosing to be a Jewish state would be discriminatory against the Arabs. It seems that many (maybe even most) of the Arabs would rather live as 'second class citizens' in Israel than live in a 'Palestinian' state reichlet. We may have no choice but to give at least some of them that opportunity.

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