Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Latest Stats: Israel's Demographic Trend is Jewish, Not Arab

Hillel Fendel

Yoram Ettinger, a former Israeli Embassy liaison with Congress, says it's critical for Israeli decision-makers to know that, contrary to popular perception, the proportion of Jews in the Land of Israel is rising.

"The demographic problem is not only not lethal to Israel," Ettinger told Yishai Fleisher on IsraelNationalRadio.com, "the tailwind is in fact going in favor of the Jews, not the Arabs." The most startling recent demographic finding, Ettinger said, "is that between 1995 and 2007, the annual number of Jewish births has increased by 40%, from some 80,000 to 112,000 Jewish births each year. During this period, the number of Arab births within the Green Line [pre-'67 Israel] has stabilized at around 39,000 a year. In addition, in 1995, the number of Jewish births comprised 69% of all births in Israel, while today it is 75%. This means that from year to year, Jewish society in Israel becomes relatively younger, while Arab society becomes older."

The true numbers, Ettinger told Arutz-7 last month, are as follows: "Within the Green Line, there are currently 1.4 million Arabs, compared with almost 6 million Jews. In Judea and Samaria, there are 1.5 million Arabs, and not 2.3 million, as [the PA] claims. In Gaza, there are 1.1 million, and not 1.5 million."

Ettinger then summed up: "What this shows is that the trend is Jewish, not Arab. One of the conclusions must be that there is absolutely no reason for Israel to give away Jewish geography in favor of Jewish demography. Anyone who says otherwise is either recklessly wrong or misleading."
There is no doubt that demographic optimistic and hope is much more conducive for better long-term planning, a better economy, a better investment climate, and a better social climate.

Asked by Fleisher about other important demographers whose conclusions are otherwise, Ettinger responded clearly and concisely: "The facts are that the others have been wrong, and here are some examples. In the 80s, those demographers told Israelis that there was no chance of a massive Aliyah [immigration] from the USSR, and that if the gates were to be opened, the Jews would mainly go to the US, Germany and elsewhere. Of course, one million came to Israel... The founder of the Central Bureau of Statistics told Ben-Gurion back in 1948 to delay the Declaration of Independence because conventional demographics at that time said that the 600,000 Jews were expected to become a minority within 20 years. They also told him not to expect Jewish Aliyah after the War of Independence. Once again, they were wrong. They also said in the 1970s that we shouldn't expect Soviet Aliyah - when in fact about 200,000 came."

"So time after time," Ettinger said, "the conventional Israeli demographers were wrong on Aliyah, and were wrong on Jewish fertility, and were wrong on Arab fertility. Jewish fertility in Israel over the past 10-15 years is the highest in the industrialized world - contrary to predictions that it would drop!"

Asked about the Arab growth rate in Judea and Samaria (Yesha), Ettinger had a detailed answer: "Arab fertility in Yesha reached its peak in 1992, for a simple reason: The Six Day War in 1967 brought about an interaction between a Western society and a third-world society - the Arabs of Yesha. When this phenomenon happens, it triggers one generation of unprecedented growth rate in the third-world society, primarily due to better health services, longer life expectancy, etc. After one generation, the fertility rates begin dropping and coming closer to Western fertility rates; at the same time, the death rate increases because the increased life expectancy meant there were many more older people - leading to a general decline in growth. The Jewish birth rate, however - seeing as we are a non-normative Western society - defies these rules, and we keep creeping upward."

The bottom line, Ettinger concludes, is that "Arab fertility rates have decreased tremendously since 1993, and perhaps more importantly, emigration has increased considerably, especially since 2000. When Hamas took over Gaza, 25,000 more people emigrated than immigrated, compared with 16,000 the year before. Between 1950 and 2007, in every year except for six of them, they lost people in net emigration."

Ettinger explained that it is important for a country to know the truth, and not wallow in "baseless, pessimistic, fatalistic projections" and "suicidal talk about the 'besieged Jewish state.' There is no doubt that demographic optimism and hope is much more conducive for better long-term planning, a better economy, a better investment climate, and a better social climate. Certainly it is better to enter into critical national security and diplomatic issues with demographic confidence; this expands your options and your room for maneuverability. If, on the other hand, you come with fatalism and demographic sweat on your brow, it restricts your options and leads to defeat."

"Right now, we have a 60% Jewish majority between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River - and 67% if we don't include Gaza. Those who say that this is not good enough and that we must therefore give away Arab-populated areas, I say that we should remember that in 1947, when the UN granted us the right to have a State, the Jews were only 33% of the population. In 1900, we were only 8%! Anyone who understands nationalism and demographics cannot deal with short-term considerations, but rather must look 100 years backward and 100 years forward. Over 100 years we have grown from 8% to 60%, and looking to the future, we can also derive comfort from the growing Jewish birth rates and the declining Arab rates."

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