The narrative we speak of proclaims Israel as a free, democratic, and Jewish society. What then of the “demographic time bomb” scenario, which postulates that an Israel that retains Judea and Samaria will have an Arab majority and thus be neither Jewish nor democratic? In fact, this is a fraudulent claim wielded to convince Israel to surrender its heartland in order to create a Palestinian state.
The numbers tell the truth: On Israel’s 63rd Independence Day, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Israel’s population at 7.7 million, with 5.84 million Jews (comprising 75.3 percent) and 1.59 million Arabs (20.5 percent). The report did not include the 1.5 million Arabs living beyond the pre-1967 Green Line. By including these 1.5 million Arabs, the overall population increases to 9.2 million. This reduces the Jewish percentage of the population to 64.5 and increases the Arab percentage to 33.5 percent of all persons residing west of the Jordan River (not including Gaza).
Note that at 64-65 percent, the Jewish majority west of the Jordan River has not changed for the past 40 years. The demographic change that has taken place in Judea and Samaria is a decline in Arab birth rates from its peak of 8 to barely 4.5 today. Arab and Jewish birth rates in Jerusalem have now converged at 3.9 per family.
Immigration to Israel, however, has contributed to Israel’s growing Jewish population. By contrast, Arab emigration – estimated at 500,000 since 1967 – now numbers approximately 10,000 per year from Judea and Samaria alone. The resultant demographics clearly favor Israel.
All citizens of Israel are entitled to live peacefully, worship freely, and enjoy full political representation. The understanding is that all political entities function within the legal framework of Israel’s political process.
Irredentist political entities that threaten the security of Israel must not be permitted. That the Palestinian Authority functions as a government independent of Israel and claims control over Israeli land is a disgrace that diminishes Israel’s standing as a sovereign nation. Its maintenance of a separate U.S.-trained military force further erodes Israel’s autonomy and presents a vital danger to Israel; it should be disbanded.
As a minority, Israel’s Arabs face issues similar to minorities in other nations. Yet they enjoy more political freedom and economic potential than their brethren in most Arab countries. They serve as members of Knesset, are represented in all professions, utilize Israel’s malls and parks, and send their children to its universities. In this light, Israel deserves credit for its efforts to integrate its diverse communities.
Nevertheless challenges persist.
Most Israelis have no desire to “rule over” Arabs. As absurd as it would be to assert that in the U.S. Caucasians rule over African-Americans and Hispanics, or that in Canada Anglos rule over minority French Canadians, so too it is absurd to suggest Israeli Jews rule over Arabs. Most want nothing more than to live peacefully. Israel cannot divide itself in two, surrender its heartland, hand over sovereignty over Jerusalem, and accept a security threat of existential magnitude because of the difficulties of integrating its minority populations.
The goal of Israel’s new narrative should be to provide a vision – to unify and inspire a beleaguered nation. The borders it proclaims are to be secure and permanent. It returns Israel’s ancestral heartland to the Jewish people. It guarantees Jewish sovereignty in all of Jerusalem and access to its holy places. It defines Israel as free, democratic, and Jewish, granting religious and political freedom to all its citizens.
It calls for one government, one army, and one nation – Israel – as sovereign on that hallowed land.
Asher Zelig Fried, who maintains The Israel Narrative blog (TheIsraelNarrative.com) where he comments on Israeli and Jewish affairs, is a frequent contributor to Jewish publications in Israel, the U.S. and Canada.