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January 31, 2013 - Image 49

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-01-31

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Mideast Demographics

Land yield not vital to keep Jewish majority.


hanks to a higher Jewish fertility
rate, more returning Jewish expatri-
ates and fewer Jewish emigrants,
Israel's Jewish majority in Eretz Yisrael, the
historic Land of Israel, continues to grow.
Meanwhile, Arab population numbers west
of the Jordan River and across the Middle
East are increasingly reflective of Western
demographic trends — meaning a substantial
decline in the Arab fertility rate. This under-
scores world tendencies showing a 30-year
fertility rate decline in all 48 Muslim-majority
countries and territories.
So says Yoram Ettinger, a Jerusalem-based
demography expert whose findings the IN
reviews annually because of the significance
in the wake of popular perceptions about how
Israel's demographics are tracking.
"The suggestion that Jews are doomed
to become a minority between
the Jordan River and the
Mediterranean is either dramati-
cally mistaken or outrageously
misleading:' Ettinger, a respected
member of the American-Israel
Demographic Research Group, re-
emphasized in an October essay
in the Israeli newspaper Israel

Skeptics argue that Israel must
cede the West Bank, a Palestinian
territory outside the State of
Israel, without tough negotiat-
ing in order to demographically secure the
Jewish state. The State of Israel itself is home
to 7.8 million people; 75 percent are Jews and
20 percent are Arabs. The largest remaining
group consists of Druze.
Ettinger cites U.S. author David P.
Goldman, who wrote in his 2011 book How
Civilizations Die that Israeli leaders quick to
flirt with concessions (Rabin's embrace of
Oslo, Sharon's uprooting in Gaza, Olmert's
unprecedented proposed allowances) "were
motivated by fear that Arab fecundity would
swamp Israel's Jewish population. In actuality,
quite the opposite was occurring ..."

Building A Case

Key to Ettinger's argument is that the
Palestinian Authority has deviously inflated
how many Arabs live in the West Bank, made
up of biblical Samaria and Judea, for political
gain. The real number is 1.65 million.
In 2012, Israel's fertility rate of three births
per woman is rising. This rate exceeds that
of any Arab country other than Yemen, Iraq
and Jordan, writes Ettinger. Persian Iran? The
birth rate there is 1.8, a decline begun under
the late shahs literacy movement.
The Israeli Arab-Jewish fertility gap is half
a birth per woman in 2012, in contrast with a
gap of six births in 1969. "Moreover:' Ettinger

said, "young
Jewish and
Arab Israeli
women have
converged at
three births,
with Arab
women trend-
ing below and
Jewish women
trending above
three births"
Last year,
Jewish births
Demographer Yoram Ettinger
grew to 77
percent of total Israeli births, up percent
from 1969. Notably, the ultra-Orthodox fer-
tility rate has dropped because of Orthodox
integration into the workforce and the mili-
tary (although the ultra-Orthodox
still have proportionately larger
families), while the secular Jewish
fertility rate is climbing.
The fertility decline among
West Bank Arabs exceeds the drop
among Israeli Arabs — a byprod-
uct of the West Bank's shift from
rural to urban society over the
past 47 years as well as because
of more working women, lower
teen pregnancy, improved literacy,
better family planning and the
Palestinians' uncertain future.
The West Bank also continues to experience
a net-emigration of Arabs against Israel's net-
immigration of Jews.


Brighter Horizons

Ettinger suggests that the 6 million Jews in
Israel and the West Bank have become a solid
majority of 66 percent. An 80-percent Jewish
majority is possible by 2035, given the poten-
tial for up to 50,000 new immigrants yearly.
To achieve this, Israel would have to make ali-
yah a priority, especially from places with high
and mobile Jewish populations — France,
Russia, Great Britain, Argentina and the U.S.
Israel then could leverage its growing
economy, the rise in anti-Semitism around
the world and renewed diaspora interest in a
Zionist way of life.
Negotiations that bring two states, one
Israeli and one Palestinian, co-existing
peacefully, side by side, not only would help
stabilize the region, but also help strengthen
Israel's national security, economic indica-
tors and political stature. But clearly, the
ancestral homeland for all Jews has time to
assure final-status issues — recognition of
Israel; renouncing of terror; borders; security;
checkpoints; settlements; "right of return";
Jerusalem; water rights — are scrupulously

Netanyahu Once More
In Search Of Real Peace


ost Israelis think peace isn't realistic at this moment. So they
oppose having Jerusalem make hard concessions for peace.
That's the thrust of a recent poll of Israeli attitudes.
The majority view seems to support a two-state solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on 1967 borders, replete with land
swaps and a demilitarized Palestinian state. A majority of Likud vot-
ers, whose party leader is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even
supported such a prospect. Netanyahu himself is on record willing
to negotiate with the Palestinians should they, at minimum, accept
Israel's right to exist within safe, secure borders, renounce use of ter-
ror and commit to a demilitarized Palestinian state.
So what's driving the Israeli perception that the
timing isn't right for peace? Executive Director
David Bernstein of the Boston-based David Project
has an intriguing theory.
"Given the massive unrest sweeping through
the Arab world and the ascendance of the Muslim
Brotherhood," he writes in a January online post,
"many wonder how a fledgling Palestinian state
could stave off such radical forces or survive a
Hamas onslaught."
Reconciliation talks between Hamas, the terror-
ist organization that rules the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, the supposedly
moderate political party governing the West Bank, continue. Why
Fatah wants any part of a rival terror-focused partner is unclear.
Further, there's fear Hamas could overrun Fatah in the West Bank – as
it did in 2007 in Gaza.
Moreover, Hamas' reign of terror on Negev towns following Israel's
2005 pullback from Gaza isn't the stuff of peacemaking. As Bernstein
writes, "Rather than setting a precedent for neighborly relations and
sound governance, it gave Israelis a glimpse into a possible mess on
its eastern border in the event of a peace deal in the West Bank."
Furthermore, as poll data show, Israelis aren't confident enough in
Palestinian leaders on either front, or in regional conditions in general,
to wholeheartedly embrace the peace camp.
Two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian, coexisting side by side
amid peace, is a noble pursuit. But it's not practical on the heels of a
West Bank leadership that refused to negotiate during Israel's 2010
settlement freeze, that continually snubs Jewish historic ties to Eretz
Yisrael, the biblical Land of Israel, and that, in a brazen act, sought
unilateral statehood at the United Nations.
With the Netanyahu-led Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu alliance taking the
most Knesset seats in the Jan. 22 Israeli elections in advance of gov-
ernment coalition building, international pressure will demand that the
Netanyahu government extend lavish peace offers to the Palestinians
– despite the lack of any interest in Ramallah or Gaza City. Peace
talks do require opposing sides to come together and at least negoti-
The Palestinian issue has been a lightning rod for Israeli prime min-
isters. Those who didn't leave because of illness (Ariel Sharon) or cor-
ruption (Ehud Olmert) were ousted for being either too rigid against
or too eager for peace – namely, Yitzhak Shamir (too inflexible),
Shimon Peres (too forthcoming), Netanyahu the first time around (too
hawkish) and Ehud Barak (too dovish).
If this ideological cycle holds true, argues Bernstein, at some point
a perceived opening for peace will emerge. The right-leaning govern-
ment will either move to the center (consider Menachem Begin's
peace agreement with Egypt and Sharon's hasty plans to withdraw
from Gaza) or fall to a left-leaning challenger.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have a fresh, more cen-
trist mandate to forage the briar patch of Palestinian politics for a
willing, genuine partner in hopes of yet bringing a lasting peace.


January 31 • 2013


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