Contrary to conventional wisdom, in 2022 Israel is not facing a potential Arab demographic time bomb in the combined areas of Judea, Samaria (the West Bank) and pre-1967 Israel. In fact, the Jewish state enjoys a robust Jewish demographic tailwind.
The political and demographic establishment in Israel and the West persist in blindly echoing official Palestinian population figures, ignoring an artificial 50% inflation. In 2022, Israel is the only Western democracy with a relatively high fertility rate, which facilitates further economic growth with no reliance on migrant labor.
Moreover, Israel’s thriving demography provides for bolstered national security (larger classes of recruits) and a more confident foreign policy.
In 2022, for the first time—in defiance of projections made by Israel’s demographic establishment since the early 1940s—Israel’s Jewish fertility rate exceeds its Muslim fertility rate. Indeed, Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is higher than that of all Arab countries other than Yemen, Iraq and Egypt.
Moreover, Israel is currently facing a potential wave of aliyah (Jewish immigration) of some 500,000 immigrants from Ukraine, Russia, other former Soviet republics, France, Britain, Germany, etc.
The ongoing Westernization of Arab demography is a derivative of modernity, urbanization, women’s enhanced social status and enrollment in higher education, and the increased use of contraceptives.
In 2022, the Jewish demographic momentum (since 1995) persists, with the secular Jewish sector making the difference, while the ultra-Orthodox experience a slight decline in fertility rate.
Jewish demographic momentum
• The number of Israeli Jewish births in 2021 (141,250) was 76% higher than in 1995 (80,400), while the number of Israeli Arab births in 2020 (43,806) was 20% higher than 1995 (36,500), as reported by the March Monthly Bulletin of Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS).
• In 2021, Jewish births were 76% of total births, compared to 69% in 1995.
• The fertility rate (number of births per woman) of Israeli secular Jewish women has trended upward during the last 25 years, while ultra-Orthodox women have experienced a slight decline.
• Israeli Jewish women—who are second only to Iceland in joining the job market—are unique in experiencing a rise in fertility rate together with expanded urbanization, education, the standard of living, integration into the job market and a rising marriage age. These phenomena have lowered the fertility rate in all other countries.
• In 1969, Israel’s Arab fertility rate was six births higher than the Jewish fertility rate. In 2015, both fertility rates were at 3.13 births per woman, reflecting the dramatic Westernization of Arab demography, triggered by the enhanced social status of women, higher marriage age, expanded participation of women in the job market and shorter reproductive window. In 2020, the Jewish fertility rate was three (and 3.27 with an Israeli-born Jewish father), while the overall Arab fertility rate was 2.82 and the Muslim fertility rate was 2.99. The average OECD fertility rate is 1.61 births per woman.
• The unique growth in Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is attributed to optimism, patriotism, attachment to Jewish roots, communal solidarity, the positive Jewish attitude toward raising children, a frontier mentality and a declining number of abortions.
• In 2021, there were 43,879 Israeli Jewish deaths, compared to 31,575 in 1996, a 39% increase. In the same year, there were 6,751 Arab deaths, compared to 3,089 in 1996, a 119% increase. Israel’s Arab life expectancy (78 per men and 82 per women) is similar to the U.S. life expectancy and higher than that of any Arab/Muslim country.
• In 2021, the number of Israeli Jewish deaths was 31% of Israeli Jewish births, compared to 40% in 1995—a symptom of a society growing younger. In 2021, the number of Israeli Arab deaths was 15% of Arab births, compared to 8% in 1995—a symptom of a society growing older.
• Since 1995, the demographic trend has expanded the younger segment of Israel’s Jewish population, which provides a solid foundation for an expanded Jewish majority in the next generation.
• The positive Jewish demographic trend is further bolstered by Israel’s net immigration, which consists of an annual aliyah reinforced by shrinking emigration: from 14,200 net emigration in 1990 to 6,000 to 7,000 net emigration in recent years.
• Moreover, at least 500,000 Jewish immigrants could immigrate to Israel in the next five years—awaiting the Israeli government to leverage this potential—when considering the Jewish communities in Ukraine, other former Soviet Republics, France, Britain, Germany, Argentina, as well as the United States, Canada and Australia.
Westernization of Arab demography
• Half a million overseas residents, who have been away for over a year, are included in the Palestinian population census, in violation of internationally accepted rules, which stipulate only a de facto count. It was 325,000 in the first Palestinian census of 1997, as documented by the head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics; and increased to 400,000 in 2005, as documented by the Palestinian Election Commission. The number grows daily because of overseas births.
• Eastern Jerusalem Arabs, who possess Israeli ID cards, are double-counted. These 350,000 individuals are included in the Israeli census, and also in the Palestinian census. The number grows daily due to births.
• Over 150,000 Arabs from Gaza and (mostly) from Judea and Samaria who married Israeli Arabs and received Israeli ID cards, are double-counted: by Israel as well as by the Palestinian Authority. The number expands daily because of births.
• Arab emigrants from Judea and Samaria—378,000—are not excluded from the P.A. population census. The P.A. census ignores the annual net emigration of mostly young Arabs from Judea and Samaria (20,000 annually in recent years). Net emigration has been a systemic feature of the area since at least the Jordanian occupation in 1950. For example, 28,000 in 2021, 26,357 in 2019, 15,173 in 2017 and 16,393 in 2015, as documented by Israel’s Immigration and Population Authority, which documents all Jewish and Arab exits and entries via Israel’s land, air and sea international passages.
• An artificial 32% inflation of Palestinian births was documented by the World Bank (page 8, item 6) in a 2006 audit. While the P.A. claimed an 8% increase in the number of births, the World Bank detected a 24% decrease.
• A dramatic decline in the fertility rate, from nine births per woman in the 1960s to 3.02 births in 2021, is documented by the CIA World Factbook, which generally echoes the official Palestinian numbers. It reflects the Westernization of Arab demography in Judea and Samaria, which has been accelerated by the sweeping urbanization (from a 70% rural population in 1967 to a 77% urban population in 2021), as well as the rising marriage age for women (from 15 years old to 22), the substantial use of contraceptives (70% of women) and the shrinking of the reproductive period (from 16-55 to 23-45).
• The median age of Judea and Samaria Arabs is 22 years old, compared to 18 in 2005.
• The Westernization of fertility rates has characterized all Muslim countries outside the sub-Sahara region: Jordan (which is very similar to the Judea and Samaria Arabs)—3 births per woman; Iran—1.93; Saudi Arabia—1.95; Morocco—2.29; Iraq—3.32; Egypt—3.23; Yemen—3.1; United Arab Emirates—1.65, etc.
• The number of Arab deaths in Judea and Samaria has been systematically under-reported (for political power and financial reasons), as documented by various studies since the British Mandate. For example, a recent Palestinian population census included Arabs who were born in 1845.
• The aforementioned data documents 1.5 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria; the official Palestinian number is 3 million.
The bottom line
• The United States should derive much satisfaction from the aforementioned documentation, which demonstrates the demographic viability and therefore, the enhanced posture of deterrence of Israel—America’s top force-multiplier in the Middle East and beyond.
• In 1897, there was a 9% Jewish minority in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel, Judea and Samaria. In 1947, it had expanded to a 39% minority. In 2021, there was a 68% Jewish majority (7.5 million Jews, 2 million Israeli Arabs and 1.5 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria), benefitting from a robust demographic tailwind of births and migration.
• Despite the conventional wisdom, there is no Arab demographic time bomb. There is, however, an unprecedented Jewish demographic tailwind.
Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.
This article was first published by The Ettinger Report.
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