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October 13, 2011 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-10-13

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EDITORIAL BOARD:
Publisher: Arthur M. Horwitz
Chief Operating Officer: F. Kevin Browett
Contributing Editor: Robert Sklar

Send letters to: Ietters@thejewishnews.com

Editorial

Contributing Editor

Favorable Demographics

Ceding land not urgent to maintaining Jewish majority.

emographic doubters
dating back to the dawn
of Israeli statehood have
insisted that Jews are doomed to
become a minority west of the
Jordan River. As a result, the disbe-
lievers say, Israel must concede the
West Bank in order to
demographically secure
the Jewish state.
Bolstering this notion
is the Israel Central
Bureau of Statistics. On
the eve of independence
in 1948, ICBS founder
Professor Roberto
Bacchi predicted that by
2001, Israel would have
no more than 2.3 mil-
lion Jews — a 33 per-
cent minority west of the Jordan.
"However, all demographic
prophecies of doom have been
crashed upon the rocks of reality:'
says Yoram Ettinger, a Jerusalem-
based Jewish demography expert
who makes rock-solid arguments.
Anyone claiming such doom
without concession of Jewish-
controlled land in Eretz Yisrael,
the historic Land of Israel, he says
emphatically, "is either dramati-
cally mistaken or outrageously
misleading."
A charlatan he's not: Ettinger is
a member of the American-Israel
Demographic Research Group,
a former congressional affairs
minister at the Israel Embassy in
Washington and a consultant to
members of Israel's cabinet and
Knesset.

Analyzing The Count
The State of Israel is home to 7.8
million people; 75 percent are Jews
and 20 percent are Arabs. The
largest group among the remain-
der consists of Druze. Notably,
the Israeli Jewish fertility rate of
2.97 births per woman is creeping
upward, while already surpassing
the fertility rates of most Arab
lands.
Fueling this
phenomenon is
growth in the
secular Jewish
birthrate; at
the same time,
the regional
,
Muslim fertility
Demographer
rate is trending
Yoram Ettinger

downward because of the effects
of Western influence, says Ettinger,
a well-respected analyst of Jewish-
Palestinian demographics. Among
major Arab countries, only Saudi
Arabia boasts a higher birthrate: 4
births per woman. Jordan, which
in effect already is a
Palestinian state but
which wants nothing
to do with Palestinian
refugees in the disput-
ed territories, has 2.8
births per woman.

Flawed Fatalism
The fear of Israeli
Jews being overrun by
Arabs in the region
remains unproven,
but ingrained among backers
urging a two-state solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While
I favor two states, one Israeli and
one Palestinian, coexisting side by
side in peace, I don't believe Israel
must rush to judgment in giving
up land out of fear that Arabs will
be dominant between the Jordan
River and the Mediterranean Sea.
In a Sept. 28 newspaper essay
published by Israel Hayom,
Ettinger underscores that the 6
million Jews in Israel and the West
Bank have become a solid major-
ity of 66 percent. That contrasts
with Jews representing minority
percentages of 8 and 33 percent in
1900 and 1947 west of the Jordan.
Punctuating this sea change,
Ettinger wrote: "The current
demographic tailwind should fur-
ther expand the Jewish majority."
From 80,400 births in 1995,
the number of Jewish births grew
by 56 percent to 125,500 in 2010.
Interestingly, the annual number
of Israeli Arab births has stabi-
lized because of the Arab commu-
nity's successful integration into
Israeli life. Ettinger put in perspec-
tive the projected significant long-
term impact: "Israel's Jewish-Arab
fertility gap was reduced from 6
births per woman in 1969 to 0.5
in 2011, trending toward a conver-
gence at three births per woman."

A Reality Check
Ettinger maintains that Arab
numbers in the West Bank are
inflated (intentionally for political
gain) by almost 1 million people,

meaning the actual total of West
Bank Arabs is 1.6 million. A World
Bank study supports this finding
by Ettinger.
The fertility decline among West
Bank Arabs exceeds the dropoff
among Israeli Arabs — a byprod-
uct of the West Bank's shift from
rural to urban society over the
past 45 years as well as because of
more working women, lower teen
pregnancy and improved family
planning. The West Bank's uncer-
tain future has slowed Palestinian
births as well.
The West Bank also continues
to experience a net-emigration
of Arabs (16,500 in 2010 alone)
against Israel's net-immigration
of Jews, mainly from Russia,
America, France, Ukraine and
Ethiopia.
An 80-percent Jewish majority
within Israel and the West Bank
is possible by 2035, especially
in view of the potential of up to
50,000 new immigrants yearly. For
that to happen, Israel would have
to declare aliyah a priority, espe-
cially from places with high and
mobile Jewish populations such
as France, Russia, Great Britain,
Argentina and, of course, the U.S.
Israel then could leverage "the
relative strength of the Israeli
economy — whose credit rating
was just upgraded by Standard
& Poor's — the intensified anti-
Semitism in the former U.S.S.R.,
West Europe and Argentina, and
expanded Jewish education in the
U.S.A.," Ettinger wrote in his essay.
The existing Jewish major-
ity stands to benefit from Israeli
expatriates who return after
discovering no-greener eco-
nomic fields elsewhere as well as
increased anti-Jewish sentiment.
A negotiated peace between
the Israelis and Palestinians cer-
tainly would have advantages for
Israel's national security, economic
opportunities and political stand-
ing. But the ancestral homeland
for Jews everywhere has time
to assure final-status issues —
mutual recognition, borders,
security, checkpoints, settlements,
refugees, Jerusalem, water rights
— are thoughtfully resolved.
Arabs won't outnumber Jews in
Eretz Yisrael (which includes the
West Bank) any time soon. _I

Street Protests Changing
Balance of Israeli Power

An Israeli takes to sleeping on the street along Rothschild

Boulevard in Tel Aviv this summer to protest apartment

rent increases of nearly 100 percent over three years.

S

eemingly from nowhere, young middle-class
Israelis beset by financial hardship have begat a
cost-of-living social protest movement, hundreds
of thousands strong, that not only has forced the govern-
ment to take notice, but also has created the opportunity
for sweeping national change of how wealth is distrib-
uted.
Israel has never had more economic vigor, but many
20- and 30-something Israelis are struggling because of
the country's elected leadership embracing a "small gov-
ernment" economic policy. That approach saved Israel's
economy thanks to free market forces, privatized govern-
ment companies and outsourced social services. But it
also weakened the trade unions, diluted salaries and fos-
tered a high-powered corps of tycoons who gained con-
trol of Israel's power and wealth. Easy credit keeps many
Israelis in unrelenting debt.
The protesters form a grassroots group who collectively
propel Israel's robust economy yet who pay stiflingly high
middle-class taxes. As a JTA analysis explained, almost
three decades of fiscal conservatism eroded key social
services such as education, health and welfare. Pay also
hasn't kept pace with inflation, further strapping young
middle-class Israelis. Israel stands to lose even more
young professionals who seek a better life elsewhere.
A renewed government-subsidized welfare state isn't
the desire. More prudent distribution of wealth would be a
start to a more inclusive and appealing economic strategy.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's economic tack
drove up prices for food, cars, apartments, childcare
and much more, but also cut corporate taxes, spur-
ring a robust economy. Last year, Israel was welcomed
into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development, an exclusive order of the world's strongest
economies. Strikingly, Israel is the OECD member with
the largest chasm between rich and poor.
In seeking out causes for their predicament, protesters
blame everything from West Bank settlement spending
and haredi welfare to limited tycoon taxes for apparently
dried-up social service support. Peace and national secu-
rity remain Israel's top concerns, but Netanyahu vows to
work with protesters to solve the socio-economic crisis.
Protest leaders are developing a list of demands and
principles for change – affordable public housing, tax
rate reform, budget priority shifts and compliance with
OECD social service averages. Clearly, the prime minister
and the Knesset must engage the people in structuring a
viable economic plan and social contract.
That the protests even happened amid the threat to
Israel's existence by Islamist terrorists says a lot about
the strength of the Israeli democracy. I 1

October 13 2011

37

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