Steve Kramer
Steve Kramer

No Demographic Bogey Man

In my most recent column, “The Two State Solution is Defunct. Now What?” I pointed out the fundamental lack of overlap between the incompatible demands insisted on by Israelis and Palestinians. Without substantial agreement between the two parties, there is no possibility to reach a treaty for a viable State of Palestine.

On the other hand, there is already a viable State of Israel which controls all of the territory (excluding the Gaza Strip) comprising the League of Nations’ British Mandate for Palestine (1922-1948).

This being the case, we now come to the “Now What” of my last article. The One State Solution is the term used, sometimes in a fearful, negative way, to describe the alternative to the much-ballyhooed State of Palestine.

The idea of a single, democratic state encompassing all of Israel and the so-called occupied Palestinian Arab territories attracts many people, including Arabs, for a reason. Because of the much higher Arab birthrate, the unified nation would inevitably have a Muslim majority, able to elect an Arab government and to transform the Jewish State into “Palestine.” This new nation, replacing Israel, would instantly be the only Arab state in the OECD, constituting 35 of the world’s leading powers. (Turkey, a non-Arab Muslim country, is already an OECD member.)

However, this is not a likely scenario. That’s because the much higher Arab birthrate is a myth. In truth, Jews were only a small minority in the Ottoman-ruled province, which itself was underpopulated for centuries. But by 1948, when the British withdraw from their Mandate, the population had risen to 1,900,000, of whom about two-thirds were Arabs, and one-third were Jews (UNSCOP report).

Before Israel declared independence in 1948, the demographic bogey man was used to scare the Jews from declaring their state. Even the United States cautioned David Ben-Gurion and his Zionist cohort that an Arab massacre of Jews would result from declaring a Jewish State.

Today, things have changed. Israel’s population is 8,522,000; three-quarters are Jews, one-fifth are Arabs, and only 4% are “other.” (Jewishvirtuallibrary) In the rest of the former British Mandate (Judea and Samaria, usually described as the West Bank), there are many more Arabs, who unwillingly share this problematic area with about 600-700 thousand Israeli Jews.

Estimates of the Arab population in the Palestinian Authority (created by the 1993 Oslo Accord) range from high estimates (2.9 million) by those who rely on Palestinian Arab sources, to much lower ones (1.75 million) by those who derive their figures independent of the Palestinian Arab claims. (israel hayom newspaper, 7/16) In either case, if Israel were to annex all the territory it controls militarily, Arabs would represent a much larger percentage of Israel’s population.

It is a fact that the Arab birthrate has been declining rapidly during the last few decades while the Israeli Jewish birthrate has been increasing. The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies (7/16) study clearly shows this: “The study found an increase of 16.5% in the fertility rate within the Jewish population between 2000 and 2014, compared to other population groups: a 27% decrease among Muslims, a 10% decrease among Christians and a 23% decrease among Druse.”

(Most people assume that the high Jewish birth rates are a result of ultra-Orthodox marriages. But contrary to the rest of the Western world, where secular families are having fewer children, or none, secular families in Israel are part of the increasing fertility rate. Taub: “When differentiated by level of religiosity within the Jewish population, the statistics show that the fertility rate among the secular population rose by 10% between 2000 and 2009, and by 15% among the religious population, while the haredi [Ultra-Orthodox] birth rate decreased by 10%.” This trend has continued in the second decade of this century.)

Using CIA World Factbook figures, which rely heavily on United Nations research (skewed, in my opinion when it comes to Palestinian Arabs), there are 6.4 million Israeli Jews, 1.4 million Israeli Arabs and 2.8 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria. That is, 4.2 million total Arabs, a ratio of two-thirds Jews and one-third Arabs.

The Arab fertility rate in Judea and Samaria has nearly halved since 2000, dropping from 5 births per woman then to 2.76 births in 2015. At the same time, the Jewish and Israeli Arab birthrate has climbed to 3.1 births per woman.

In general terms, the developed world has seen its fertility rate drop below the replacement rate, while the Westernization of Third World populations has caused their birth rates to plummet as well. Israel is the lone exception among the developed nations. Consequently, as Muslim birthrates continue to fall, the already large Israeli Jewish population advantage will grow, even if Jewish birth rates stabilize. Therefore, there is no Demographic Bogey Man to worry about. If Israel annexes parts of the area it currently controls beyond the 1949 armistice line, such as Area C of the Palestinian Authority, no catastrophic population change will occur.

There are political scenarios involving Jewish civil hegemony over all of the Land of Israel, as was originally envisioned in the “national home for the Jewish people” described in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. (The Gaza Strip is already independent, albeit boxed in by both Egypt and Israel because of its terrorist status, similar to North Korea.) Arabs who come under Israeli sovereignty would have a path to citizenship with civil, religious, and political rights, IF they took an Oath of Allegiance to the Jewish State (exactly as naturalized Americans do). Those Arabs declining to become citizens would naturally be guaranteed civil and religious rights but not political rights. This formula is stated in the Balfour Declaration, which became part and parcel of subsequent League of Nations/United Nations edicts.

It is conjectured that many of those Arabs rejecting citizenship in Israel would be happy to start a new life in nearby Arab countries (if permitted) or in friendly Western countries. Funds could be provided by the dissolution of the then-obsolete UNRWA, since there would no longer be “Palestinian refugees” to support. After a few years of enabling emigration from Israel, funding from the UN and individual countries would no longer be required.

With a more optimistic and pragmatic diplomacy, Israel might be able to cut the Gordian knot of Israeli-Arab conflict and benefit those Arabs who want to partner with Israel. Others, who don’t want to accept life in a Jewish state, would be welcome to emigrate from Israel to the United States or other countries, such as Germany (providing the beneficent policies of President Obama and Chancellor Merkel continue). The result would be a successful One State Solution: a Jewish State of Israel including Judea, Samaria, and the Golan Heights.

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.