Israel’s Demographic Time-Bomb: An Arab-Majority State?

Palash R. Ghosh, International Business Times, February 1, 2012

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As in Arab Muslim countries, Palestinians have a very high birth rate—so high, in fact, that in a few decades to come, Arabs may outnumber Jews within the land of Israel.

Such an event would clearly pose a dire threat to Israel and its mandated Jewish identity.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his conservative, nationalist Likud Party have passed new measures to attract more Jews to relocate to West Bank settlements.

These incentives have outraged Palestinians who believe the Israeli leader is undermining peace talks.

Still, Netanyahu has alienated the more extreme elements of his party by agreeing (in principle) to the existence of an independent Palestinian state—which is anathema to ultra-nationalist Jews.

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Palestinians warn that if new Jewish settlements are not halted, Israel faces a single-state in which Arabs will outnumber Jews.

Israelis also fear such an outcome.

For many years, Israeli politicians and scholars have warned that the higher birth rate of the country’s Palestinian population may ultimately lead to a state in which Jews become the minority—thereby threatening the very existence of the “Jewish homeland.”

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As of 2010, the population growth rate for Israel as a whole was at 1.9 percent—but it is 2.6 percent for Arabs, only 1.7 percent for Jews.

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Moreover, the median age of Arabs in the country (21.1 years) is far less than the figure for Jews (31.6).

Currently, Jews account for about 75 percent of Israel’s population, with the remaining 25 percent most Arab Muslims (with some Arab Christians and Druze). [These percentages, of course, exclude the millions of Palestinians living in Gaza and West Bank].

Dr. Wahid Abd Al-Magid, editor of Al-Ahram’s Arab Strategic Report, has predicted that Arabs may become a majority in Israel in 2035, and “will certainly be the majority in 2048.”

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Early in the last decade, Dr. Yitzhak Ravid, an Israeli government armaments expert, proposed that Israel “implement a stringent policy of family planning in relation to its Muslim population.”

In a speech to Israel’s parliament in 2007, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, warned of “a demographic battle, drowned in blood and tears.”

International Business Times discussed this topic with Ben Moscovitch, an expert on the Middle East and Israel, as well as the Israel blogger for the Foreign Policy Association.

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IB TIMES: Hypothetically, if there were more Arabs than Jews in Israel, what would happen? Would Israel cease to exist as a “Jewish State”, would it have to be separated into two nations?

MOSCOVITCH: It is impossible to have a majority Muslim Arab population in a Jewish state; that would be antithetical to Jewish values. Israelis and Jews have a firm belief in democracy, which is one of the reasons that many Israelis do not want to annex the West Bank and result in more non-Jews living in a Jewish state.

A majority-Arab population would result in a one-state, bi-national solution, which would therefore eradicating the Jewish state. Both Jews and non-Jewish Arabs would live together and govern accordingly. However, elements on both sides would likely attempt to infuse religion into the debate. The Jewish population could seek the inclusion of Jewish law in governance, while Muslims could advocate governance by Sharia.

In that latter scenario, extremist Muslims could pursue a radical interpretation of Sharia that would include the suppression of minorities—including women, homosexuals and non-Muslims—therefore resulting in an anti-democratic state, possibly akin to Iran.

This one-state solution is unacceptable and would destroy the modern concept of Israel and Zionism. Annexing the West Bank would only bolster the likelihood of that doomsday one-state solution scenario.

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