We all know that Israel suffered the tragedies of the Yom Kippur War because our
leaders were locked into the “conceptzia” – the concept – that Egypt and Syria
would not attack the country because they knew they would lose. Our leaders
ignored reports of military formations and preparations and an urgent warning
from an informed neighbor.
Today, our leaders are again burdened with a
concept that distorts their policy determinations, which they cannot overcome
despite the empirical evidence shattering it.
This time the concept rests
in the field of demography, namely that the Arab total fertility rate (TFR) is
much higher than and even a multiple of the Jewish TFR.
The Institute for
Zionist Strategies (IZS) has just published the latest in a series of studies by
Yakov Faitelson on demographic developments. This study, available in
full at www.izs.org.il and based on the empirical data of the Central Bureau of
Statistics, shows that Jewish TFR is steadily rising, while the Arab TFR is
As noted in previous studies, this development conforms to
classic demographic patterns. When a developing population benefits from modern
medicine, infant mortality rates decline dramatically, life expectancy grows
rapidly, TFR initially remains constant, and the population explodes.
DEMOGRAPHIC reality of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s has been imprinted on the
psyches and in the guts of our current leaders. In today’s empirical reality of
a developing acculturated population, in which women receive formal education,
in which urbanization rapidly increases, and in which other typical trends play
out, the TFR sinks to a fraction.
This is today’s reality that Faitelson
documents and that our leaders fail to absorb.
In 1965, Israeli Arab
women were giving birth to 8.42 children on average. In 2010, they were giving
birth to 3.5. Put differently, the TFR gap between the average Israeli Arab
woman/ and her Jewish counterpart went from 4.95 to 0.6.
Studies by the
American-Israel Demographic Research Group published by BESA, Azure and AEI,
among others, and endorsed by a highly prominent US authority on demography,
Nicholas Eberstadt, suggest that demographic developments on the West Bank trail
those among Israeli Arabs by about three years. Remarkably the CIA reports that
West Bank Arabs are more urbanized than Israeli Arabs, and for 2009, it reports
a lower TFR for West Bank Arabs than the CBS reports for Israeli Arabs (3.12 vs.
While Faitelson’s argument projects current trends to 2030 and even
2050, it is clear that even if the current trends flatten out, the Jewish and
Arab fertility rates will soon converge and may reverse so that Jewish fertility
exceeds Arab fertility. Even today, among 14 Middle East countries, Israel’s
Jewish fertility rate ranks fifth.
Another part of the concept shattered
by the IZS study is that the Jewish growth in fertility is to a considerable
degree a function of haredi fertility rates. Wrong again. In fact, haredi
fertility rates are declining steadily (15.3 percent between 2001 and 2009) as
the overall Jewish TFR shoots upward.
THIS DEMOGRAPHIC concept is the
most prominent justification by political leaders, such as opposition leader
Tzipi Livni, for the necessity and urgency of a two-state solution. They claim
that there will soon be a majority of Arabs between the Jordan and the
Mediterranean, so that a two-state solution is necessary to ensure a Jewish
majority and hence a Jewish, democratic state.
From the evidence we have
seen, this is wholly refuted by empirical data. The American-Israel Demographic
Research Group finds that there is a 66% Jewish majority excluding Gaza and a
60% majority when Gaza is included.
The Institute for Zionist Strategies
takes no stand on the Palestinian dispute or proposed resolutions. Our mission
is to develop a broad consensus for maintaining a Jewish Zionist state inside
whatever boundaries exist at any given time, and we have earned strong
supporters from both sides of the divide. We also understand that other,
non-demographic arguments are posited for a two-state solution. But Faitelson’s
current study highlights the absurdity of making national, even existential,
decisions based on a concept contradicted by facts. In 1973, it took a
catastrophe to shatter the concept of that day. This time, let’s do it
differently.The writer is the founding president of the Institute for
Zionist Strategies. He practices law in Israel and the US.