Nikos Konstandaras at PostGlobal

Nikos Konstandaras

Athens, Greece

Nikos Konstandaras is managing editor and a columnist of Kathimerini, the leading Greek morning daily. He is also the founding editor of Kathimerini’s English Edition, which is published as a supplement to The International Herald Tribune in Greece, Cyprus and Albania. He worked as a correspondent for The Associated Press from 1989 to 1997 before joining the Greek press and has reported from many countries in the region. Close.

Nikos Konstandaras

Athens, Greece

Nikos Konstandaras is managing editor and a columnist of Kathimerini, the leading Greek morning daily. He is also the founding editor of Kathimerini’s English Edition, which is published as a supplement to The International Herald Tribune in Greece, Cyprus and Albania. more »

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Still Time to Diffuse Israel's Arab Question

The Current Discussion: Israel's real "existential question" is whether or not to disenfranchise its Arab minority, says Fareed Zakaria in his column this week. Is he right?

This is truly an existential problem - so much so that one should try not to answer it, even as some populist politicians may try to force a debate on the issue. A majority of Israel's Arab, non-Jewish population would negate the basis of the Jewish state; a modern democracy can do nothing to disenfranchise any group of its citizens.

The fact that Arabs now comprise about a fifth of Israel's population means that it will take many years for them to become a majority. This should allow us to refrain from stepping into the moral minefield of debating what one ethnic group can or should do to limit the rights and behavior of another. Maybe, just maybe, some workable solution will be found politically before the ethnic and religious balance becomes Israel's most pressing problem.

However, I don't see how anyone can be optimistic, given the history and present of the region. The only times that there was relative peace was when Arabs, Jews, Christians (and, earlier, pagans) were all subject to something bigger than them - whether the empire was Hellenistic, Roman, Ottoman or British. Even then, there were periodic wars and massacres fuelled by territorial differences, real and perceived historic rights and wrongs and deep-rooted prejudices.

It is difficult to consider something similar to the European Union rising out of the conflicts of today's Middle East, a political body that would unite its countries and ethnic groups in a shared vision in which each gains from the common pursuit of progress. As the time of empires, too, is past, we cannot expect any foreign power to impose peace and stability in the Middle East or any other part of the world. So, it is up to the people of the region to figure out what is in their best interests. They may be divided into traditionally hostile states, and they may be made up of conflicting ethnic and religious groups, but when they realize that their children deserve a better future than the one before them, they might see that cooperation is the only way forward.

Endless confrontation has produced nothing but pain and anger. The onus is on well-meaning people in Israel to work toward a political compromise so as to defuse the demographic time bomb. Wishful thinking? Yes. But what are the alternatives?

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