By Alexander H. Maurice.
On the eve of Rosh Hashanah in September of last year, the population of Israel reached eight million, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Surely this is news to be celebrated within Israel as a sign of growth of a healthy state, but a shift in the nation’s demographics raises concerns about the future of Israel. If Israel continues its push to absorb and control areas of Palestine, it must face the facts: with a growing Arab population, Israel can only be a Jewish state or a democratic one—not both.
Arabs currently make up only 20.7 percent of the population of Israel according to the CBS, but when the question is re-framed slightly, the situation becomes more complicated. Both the CIA’s factbook and the CBS report that there are around 6 million Jews and 5.5 million Arabs living in the territory between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean. Currently this places the Jewish population in the region in the majority by only a slim margin, but even that may change.
Fertility Rate for Muslims Beats Jewish Births
In a 2012 abstract published by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, “Fertility Rates, by Age and Religion”, Muslim fertility rates for the past 3 years have varied between 3.51-3.75 children born per woman while Jewish rates have varied between 2.97-3.04. This is the most conservative estimate available, and yet it still points to Arabs soon outnumbering Jews in the broad region—even within the borders of Israel. Dr. Wahid Abd Al-Magid, the editor of Al-Ahram’s Arab Strategic Report, states that Arabs may likely become the majority ethnicity in the state by 2035 and “will certainly be the majority in 2048”. His estimates leave out the question of the Palestinian territory.
This explains Israel’s Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law and immigration programs such as Birthright, which Ze’ev Boim, former Israeli Minister of Immigrant Absorption, asserts allows Israel “to maintain the state’s democratic nature, but also its Jewish nature”. In order for the country to be both democratic and Jewish, its population must maintain a Jewish majority. This is how Israel is overcoming the challenge today. But if heavy-handed immigration and resettlement policies are needed to maintain Israel’s status as a democratic, Jewish state, how tenable are these policies in the long run?
Strong border controls and immigration restrictions are only …
To read complete articles from the Winter 2014 issue, you must subscribe to our eReader edition.