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Blinken is wrong on Israel’s demography

There is no Arab demographic time bomb—there is, however, an unprecedented Jewish demographic tailwind.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken participates in a video teleconference with the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 22, 2021. Credit: U.S. shutterState Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/Public Domain.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken participates in a video teleconference with the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 22, 2021. Credit: U.S. shutterState Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/Public Domain.
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken keeps advising Israel to retreat from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), lest it lose its Jewish majority.

Secretary Blinken is wrong, relying on highly inflated, erroneous Palestinian Authority numbers, ignoring the dramatic Westernization of Arab demography and overlooking the unprecedented Jewish demographic tailwind in Israel, as documented by the following data.

Jewish demography bolstered

• The number of Israeli Jewish births in 2020 (134,866) was 68 percent higher than in 1995 (80,400), while the number of Israeli Arab births in 2020 was 16 percent higher (42,435) than 1995 (36,500), as reported by the March 2021 Monthly Bulletin of Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

• In 2020, Jewish births were 76 percent of total births, compared to 69 percent in 1995.

• The fertility rate (number of births per woman) of Israeli secular Jewish women has trended upward during the last 25 years, while haredi women have experienced a slight decline.

• Israeli Jewish women—who are second only to the women of Iceland in joining the job market—are unique in experiencing a rising fertility rate despite expanded urbanization, increased education, a higher standard of living, rising integration into the job market and a rising marriage age, while 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 rate. In 2015, both fertility rates were at 3.13 births per woman, reflecting the dramatic Westernization of Israel’s Arab population, triggered by the enhanced social status of women, a rising marriage age, expanded participation of women in the job market and shorter reproductive time. In 2019, the Jewish fertility rate was 3.09 (and 3.27 with an Israeli-born Jewish father), while the Arab fertility rate declined to 2.98.

• The unique growth in Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is attributed to optimism, patriotism, attachment to Jewish roots, communal solidarity, a frontier mentality and a declining number of abortions.

• In 2020, there were 42,442 Israeli Jewish deaths, compared to 31,575 in 1996, a 34 percent increase, which reflects a society growing younger. In 2020, there were 6,261 Arab deaths, compared to 3,089 in 1996, a 103 percent increase, which reflects a society growing older.

Israeli Arabs’ life expectancy (78 for men and 82 for women) is similar to life expectancy in the United States and higher than in any Arab/Muslim country.

• In 2020, the number of Israeli Jewish deaths was 31 percent of Jewish births, compared to 40 percent in 1995—a symptom of a society growing younger. In 2020, the number of Israeli Arab deaths was 15 percent of Arab births, compared to 8 percent 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 coming generation.

• The positive Jewish demographic trend is further bolstered by Israel’s net immigration, which consists of an annual aliyah (Jewish immigration) reinforced by shrinking Israeli emigration: from 14,200 net emigration in 1990 to 6,000 to 7,000 net emigration in recent years, which includes emigration of Israeli Arabs.

• Moreover, at least 500,000 olim (Jewish immigrants) could potentially arrive in the next five to ten years, considering the sizes of the Jewish communities in France, Britain, the former USSR, Germany, Argentina, the United States, Canada and Australia.

The Westernization of Israeli Arabs

• 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 2004, as documented by the Palestinian Election Commission.

• 350,000 eastern Jerusalem Arabs who possess Israeli ID cards are double-counted. They are included in the Israeli census, and also in the Palestinian census.

• Over 100,000 Arabs from Gaza and (mostly) from Judea and Samaria who married Israeli Arabs and received Israeli ID cards are also counted by both Israel and the P.A.

• 350,000 Arab emigrants from Judea and Samaria are excluded from the population census of the Palestinian Authority. The census ignores the annual net emigration of mostly-young-Arabs from Judea and Samaria (15,000 annually in recent years). Net emigration has been a systemic feature of the area at least since the Jordanian occupation in 1950. For example, 26,357 in 2019, 7,778 in 2018, 15,173 in 2017, 15,502 in 2016, 16,393 in 2015 and 24,244 in 2014, as documented by Israel’s Immigration and Population Authority, which documents all exits and entries via Israel’s land, air and sea international passages.

• A 32 percent artificial 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 percent increase in the number of births, the World Bank detected a 24 percent 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 Arabs in Judea and Samaria, which has been accelerated by sweeping urbanization (from a 70 percent rural population in 1967 to a 77 percent 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 percent 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 years old in 2005.

• The Westernization of fertility rates has characterized all Muslim countries other than 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 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, once all the inflated figures have been deducted from the official Palestinian number (3 million).

The bottom line

In 1897, there was a 9 percent Jewish minority in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel, Judea and Samaria. In 1947, it had expanded to a 39 percent minority. In 2021, there is a 68 percent Jewish majority (7.3 million Jews, 2 million Israeli Arabs and 1.5 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria), benefiting from a robust demographic tailwind of births and migration.

Secretary of State Blinken should derive much satisfaction from the aforementioned documentation, which demonstrates the demographic viability of Israel—America’s top force-multiplier in the Middle East and beyond.

In contrast to 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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