Will Santorum’s ‘No Palestine’ Comments Backfire?

Is Israel Ready for 2.5 Million 'New' Citizens?

Coming within a hair’s breadth of winning in Iowa has brought increased credibility to former Sen. Rick Santorum’s (R – PA) campaign, but it has also added to domestic and internationally scrutiny of comments made during the final days of the campaign.

In particular is Santorum’s insistence that “there are no Palestinians” and that there is no such thing as Palestine, a comment which attempted to mirror Newt Gingrich’s controversial statement to that effect (ironically because Santorum himself took Gingrich to task for making such a claim at a debate). The effort was seen as attempting to curry favor with pro-Israel voters, but in Santorum’s case risks having the opposite effect.

That’s because while Gingrich claimed that the Palestinians were actually just a bunch of sneaky Arabs living under occupation just to make Israel look bad, Santorum insisted that not only is the West Bank “Israeli” but everyone living there is an Israeli too.

It is that last part that is political kryptonite, as while the Israeli Lobby is likely more than comfortable claiming the whole West Bank, those 2.5 million Palestinians living there, currently with only a bare minimum of human rights, are another matter entirely.

Israel has long fretted internally about the “demographics” problem, that the nation’s Arab citizens are growing as a percentage of the overall population. Already 20 percent of the population, the Arab population threatens to become increasingly assertive in demanding equal rights and a society of religious pluralism, as opposed to the “Jewish state” demanded by so many in the majority.

This is a major concern when Israel only has 1.5 million Arab citizens. The annexation of the West Bank and a Santorum-style declaration that the 2.5 million Palestinians there are “Israelis” would turn Israel’s Arab population into 4 million. If the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are treated in the same manner, Israel becomes an Arab-majority state overnight.

Santorum’s statement then boils down to what Israel’s lobbying base fears the most, the dreaded “one state solution” where Israel in its current configuration ceases to exist.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.