My interlocutors generally brushed aside questions about Islam. It almost felt impolite to mention the Islamic imperative that Muslims (who make up 84 percent of the Israeli Arab population) rule themselves. Discussing the Islamic drive for application of Islamic law drew blank looks and a shift to more immediate topics.
This avoidance reminded me of Turkey before 2002, when mainstream Turks assumed that Atatürk’s revolution was permanent and Islamists would remain a fringe phenomenon. They proved very wrong: In the decade since Islamists democratically rode to power in late 2002, the elected government has steadily applied more Islamic laws and built a neo-Ottoman regional power.
I predict a similar evolution in Israel, as Israeli Arab paradoxes grow more acute. Muslim citizens of Israel will continue to grow in numbers, skills, and confidence, becoming simultaneously more integral to the country’s life and more eager to throw off Jewish sovereignty. This suggests that as Israel overcomes external threats, Israeli Arabs will emerge as an ever-greater internal concern. Indeed, I predict they represent the ultimate obstacle to establishing the Jewish homeland anticipated by Theodor Herzl and Lord Balfour.
What can be done? Lebanon’s Christians lost power because they incorporated too many Muslims into their country and became too small a proportion of the population to rule it. Recalling this lesson, Israel’s identity and security require minimizing the number of Arab citizens — not by reducing their democratic rights, much less by deporting them, but by such steps as adjusting Israel’s borders, building fences along the frontiers, implementing stringent family-reunification policies, changing pro-natalist policies, and carefully scrutinizing refugee applications.
Ironically, the greatest impediment to these actions will be that most Israeli Arabs emphatically wish to remain disloyal citizens of the Jewish state, instead of loyal citizens of a Palestinian state. Further, many other Middle Eastern Muslims aspire to become Israelis (a phenomenon I call “Muslim aliyah”). These preferences, I predict, will stymie the government of Israel, which will not develop adequate responses, thereby turning today’s relative quiet into tomorrow’s crisis.