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Overall demographic reality west of the Jordan River

In 2022, in contrast to conventional demographic wisdom, Israel is not facing a potential Arab demographic time bomb in the combined areas of Judea, Samaria (the West Bank) and the pre-1967 Israel. In fact, the Jewish State benefits from a robust Jewish demographic tailwind.

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In 2022, the political and demographic establishment in Israel and the West persist in reverberating the official Palestinian numbers without due-diligence (auditing), ignoring a 50% artificial inflation of the population numbers.

In 2022, Israel is the only Western democracy endowed with a relatively high fertility rate, which facilitates further economic growth with no reliance on migrant labor.  Moreover, Israel’s thriving demography provides for bolstered national security (larger classes of recruits) and a more confident foreign policy.

In 2022, for the first time – in defiance of projections made by Israel’s demographic establishment since the early 1940s – Israel’s Jewish fertility rate exceeds Israel’s Muslim fertility rate. Moreover, Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is higher than all Arab countries other than Yemen, Iraq and Egypt.

In 2022, Israel is facing a potential wave of Aliyah (Jewish immigration) of some 500,000 Olim from the Ukraine, Russia, other former Soviet republics, France, Britain, Germany, etc.

In 2022, the Westernization of Arab demography persists as a derivative of modernity, urbanization, women’s enhanced social status, women’s enrollment in higher education and increased use of contraceptives.

In 2022, the Jewish demographic momentum (since 1995) persists with the secular Jewish sector making the difference, while the ultra-orthodox experiencing a slight decline in fertility rate.

Jewish demographic momentum

*The number of Israeli Jewish births in 2021 (141,250) was 76% higher than 1995 (80,400), while the number of Israeli Arab births in 2020 (43,806) was 20% higher than 1995 (36,500), as reported by the March 2022 Monthly Bulletin of Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS).

* In 2021, Jewish births were 76% of total births, compared to 69% in 1995.

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

*Israeli Jewish women – who are second only to Iceland in joining the job market – are unique in experiencing a rise of fertility rate, along with expanded urbanization, education, standard of living, integration into the job market and a rise of wedding age, while these phenomena have lowered the fertility rate in all other countries.

*In 1969, Israel’s Arab fertility rate was 6 births higher than the Jewish fertility rate. In 2015, both fertility rates were at 3.13 births per woman, reflecting the dramatic Westernization of Arab demography, triggered by the enhanced social status of women, older wedding age, expanded participation of women in the job market and shorter reproductive time. In 2020, the Jewish fertility rate was 3 (and 3.27 with an Israeli-born Jewish father), while the overall Arab fertility rate was 2.82 and the Muslim fertility rate was 2.99.  The average OECD fertility rate is 1.61 births per woman.

*The unique growth in Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is attributed to optimism, patriotism, attachment to Jewish roots, communal solidarity, the Jewish high regard for raising children, frontier mentality and a declining number of abortions.

*In 2021, there were 43,879 Israeli Jewish deaths, compared to 31,575 in 1996, a 39% increase, which reflects a society growing younger. In 2021, there were 6,751 Arab deaths, compared to 3,089 in 1996, a 119% increase, which reflects a society growing older.  

Israel’s Arab life expectancy (78 per men and 82 per women) is similar to the US life expectancy and higher than any Arab/Muslim country.

*In 2021, the number of Israeli Jewish deaths was 31% of Jewish births, compared to 40% in 1995 – a symptom of a society growing younger. In 2021, the number of Israeli Arab deaths was 15% of Arab births, compared to 8% 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 next generation.

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

*Moreover, there is a potential of at least 500,000 Olim (Jewish immigrants) in the next 5 years – awaiting the Israeli government to leverage this potential – when considering the Jewish communities in the Ukraine, other former  Soviet Republics, France, Britain, Germany, Argentina, as well as the USA, Canada and Australia.

Westernization of Arab demography

*500,000 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 2005, as documented by the Palestinian Election Commission. The number grows daily because of overseas births.

*350,000 East Jerusalem Arabs, who possess Israeli ID cards, are doubly-counted. They are included in the Israeli census, while they are also included in the Palestinian census. The number grows daily due to births.

*Over 150,000 Arabs from Gaza and (mostly) from Judea and Samaria, who married Israeli Arabs and received Israeli ID cards, are doubly-counted counted: by Israel as well as by the Palestinian Authority. The number expands daily because of births.

*378,000 Arab emigrants from Judea and Samaria are not excluded from the population census of the Palestinian Authority.  The latter ignores the annual net-emigration of mostly-young-Arabs from Judea and Samaria (20,000 annually in recent years). Net-emigration has been a systemic feature of the area, at least, since the Jordanian occupation in 1950. For example, 28,000 in  2021, 26,357 in 2019, 15,173 in 2017 and16,393 in 2015, as documented by Israel’s Immigration and Population Authority, which documents all Jewish and Arab exists and entries via Israel’s land, air and sea international passages.

*A 32% artificial inflation of Palestinian births was documented by the World Bank (page 8, item 6) in a 2006 audit. While the Palestinian Authority claimed an 8% increase in the number of births, the World Bank detected a 24% decrease.

*A dramatic decline in the fertility rate from 9 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 Arab demography in Judea and Samaria, which has been accelerated by the sweeping urbanization (from a 70% rural population in 1967 to a 77% urban population in 2021), as well as the rising wedding age for women (from 15 years old to 22), the substantial use of contraceptives (70% 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 power 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, when deducting the aforementioned documented-data from the official Palestinian number (3 million).

The bottom line

*The US should derive much satisfaction from the aforementioned documentation, which demonstrates the demographic viability and therefore, the enhanced posture of deterrence of Israel – America’s top force-multiplier in the Middle East and beyond.

*In 1897, there was a 9% Jewish minority in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel, Judea and Samaria. In 1947, it had expanded to a 39% minority. In 2021, there is a 68% Jewish majority (7.5mn Jews, 2mn Israeli Arabs and 1.5mn Arabs in Judea and Samaria), benefitting from a robust demographic tailwind of births and migration.

*In contrast to conventional wisdom, there is no Arab demographic time bomb.  There is, however,  an unprecedented Jewish demographic tailwind.

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Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is consultant to Israel’s Cabinet members and Israeli legislators, and lecturer in the U.S., Canada and Israel on Israel’s unique contributions to American interests, the foundations of U.S.-Israel relations, the Iranian threat, and Jewish-Arab issues.