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June 13, 2014 7:29 pm

Separation Should Not be an Option

avatar by Yoram Ettinger

The Jewish community of Beit El in Judea and Samaria. Credit: Yaakov via Wikimedia Commons.

Policy makers and public opinion molders who call for Israel’s separation from Judea and Samaria are aware that prior separations — from 40 percent of Judea and Samaria in 1994, from Hebron in 1997, and from Gaza in 2005 — yielded land-for-terror and not land-for-peace.

They are aware that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, did not separate from, but rather annexed, western Jerusalem and additional parts of the Land of Israel during the 1948-1949 war. Ben-Gurion did not believe in land-for-peace. In fact, he expanded Israel’s sovereignty (including significant construction) by 40 percent, in defiance of brutal U.S. and European pressure.

They know that subsequent Prime Minister Levi Eshkol did not engage in land-for-peace, but rather reunited Jerusalem — the most sensitive territorial issue — annexing eastern Jerusalem and expanding construction there. They are mindful of Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s application of Israel’s law to the Golan Heights (and expanding construction).

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However, policy makers and public opinion molders are intimidated by projections of demographic doom suggesting that the Jewish state will, supposedly, become a binational state unless it separates from Judea and Samaria. They assume that demographically time is on the Palestinian side, since the Arab society is younger and reproduces faster than the Jewish society. Thus, they conclude, retaining Judea and Samaria condemns the Jewish state to demographic calamity. They accept the highly inflated Palestinian numbers without scrutiny.

Moreover, unlike all Israeli prime ministers from Ben-Gurion (1948) through Shamir (1992), they subordinate the reality-driven Zionist vision of resettling the Land of Israel to projections of demographic doom issued by Israel’s demographic establishment. The latter has been consistently wrong since 1948, underestimating Jewish fertility, overestimating Arab fertility, ruling out waves of aliyah (the Jewish ingathering), and frequently projecting imminent demographic doom.

The demography-driven separationists are mistaken, or misleading, ignoring demographic reality and long-term demographic trends, which highlight an unprecedented and robust demographic Jewish tailwind and a modernity-driven, powerful demographic Muslim headwind in the Palestinian Authority and throughout the Muslim world, other than in the sub-Sahara region. Time is actually on the Jewish side.

For example:

– From 1995-2013, the annual number of Israeli Jewish births surged by 65 percent — from 80,400 to 132,000 — despite the decline in the fertility rate (number of births per woman) of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sector, but due to the unprecedented increase of secular fertility. At the same time, the number of Israeli Arab births increased by a mere 8 percent, from 36,000 to 39,000. The Jewish births include those of some 300,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who are Jews by the Law of Return but not recognized yet as such by the rabbinate.

– According to the CIA World Factbook, Arab fertility in Judea and Samaria was 5.34 births per woman in 1995, rapidly reduced to 2.83 births in 2014, and trending downward.

– In 1995, Jewish births constituted 69 percent of total Israeli births, compared with over 77 percent in 2013 and trending toward 80 percent.

– In 1995, there were 2.3 Jewish births per one Israeli Arab birth, compared with 3.3 Jewish births in 2013.

– In 1969, the average Israeli Arab woman had six more births than the average Jewish woman, compared to a 0.4 gap in 2013, and a convergence at three births per woman, Jewish or Arab, aged in their 20s and 30s.

– In 2013, the Jewish fertility rate was 3.04 births per woman and trending upward — or 3.4 births when both spouses are Israeli-born — while the Israeli Arab fertility rate trends below three. Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is higher than any Arab country’s, other than Yemen, Iraq and Jordan, which are rapidly declining. The Jewish population is growing relatively younger (which bodes well for Israel’s economy and national security), while the Arab population is growing relatively older.

– In 2000, the Israeli Arab population grew by 0.24 percent, compared to just 0.06 percent in 2013, introducing the end of the Arab — and the launching of the Jewish — demographic momentum, which will gradually expand the Jewish majority of 80 percent in pre-1967 Israel, and the 66 percent Jewish majority in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel.

– While the Jewish majority benefits from annual net immigration (aliyah minus emigration plus returning expatriates), the Arab minority has experienced an annual net emigration (e.g., 20,000 from Judea and Samaria in 2013). A pro-active aliyah policy could yield over 500,000 olim in the next five to 10 years.

Theodore Herzl and Ben-Gurion were not deterred by leading Jewish demographers, who contended that 8 percent and 38 percent Jewish minorities in the Land of Israel in 1898 and 1947 respectively spelled doom for the Zionist vision. Ben-Gurion was not dissuaded by the mere 55 percent Jewish majority in the Jewish state as partitioned by the U.N. in November, 1947. They, and all Israeli prime ministers until 1992, were aware that demography was not constant or linear, but susceptible to enhancement via pro-active policies, especially through aliyah. Ben-Gurion, Eshkol and Shamir did not wait for aliyah to happen. They instigated major aliyah waves, which, in turn, have shaped the current robust Jewish demography, economy, science, technology, agriculture, medicine and military.

Following in the footsteps of Israel’s founding fathers, current Israeli policy-makers must not allow demographic difficulties to shape or minimize the Zionist vision. They should maximize the demographic potential in order to realize the Zionist vision: engagement with, not separation from, the Land of Israel.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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