by Yakov Faitelson, The Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2013
The following are excerpts an essay by Yakov Faitelson, the lead expert on the Jewish-Arab demographic balance:
“Since 2003, the annual population growth rate [birth, mortality and migration rates] of Israeli Jews has grown steadily from 1.48 percent to 1.81 percent while the aggregated annual increase of the Arab Middle Eastern countries has decreased to 1.45 percent….
“While the natural increase rate [birth and mortality rates] for Israeli Jews rose by 41.6 percent from 1995 to 2012, the Arab natural increase rate declined during the same time by 30.6 percent – due to rapid modernity [e.g. urbanization, family planning, expanded education among women, higher wedding-age] with the rate in 2012 at its lowest level since 1955.
“For example, in 2000, the number of Israeli Arabs born was 39,579 (including 34,667 Muslims). By 2012, the number of Israeli Arab newborns was 40,080 (35,730 Muslim). The number of children born within the Jewish population rose from 90,900 in 2000 to 125,492 in 2012 and in the expanded Jewish population [including Olim from the USSR who are not yet recognized as Jews by the Rabbinate] from 94,327 to 130,460 in 2012. Thus the share of babies born to Jews increased from 67.9 percent in 2000 to 73.6 percent and of expanded Jewish population from 70.4 percent to 76.5 percent in 2012 [The trend persists during 2013]….
“From the beginning of the twenty-first century the TFR [number of births per woman] of Israeli Muslims decreased considerably, from 4.7 in 2000 to 3.5 children per woman in 2011. The TFR of all Arabs decreased still further to 3.3 children per woman, very close to the 3.09 for Jewish women born in Israel….
“The shape of Israel’s age-pyramid clearly shows that the younger the age, the more the number of Jews increases while the number of Arabs either decreases or remains stable. During the last ten years, the share of Israeli Jews versus Israeli Arabs within the overall young Israeli population has increased, indicating that the Jewish population has started to become younger while the Israeli Arab population is getting older. With existing life expectancies factored in, the natural aging of Israeli Arab ‘baby boomers’ will significantly increase their mortality level over the next two decades, causing an accelerating decline in the overall Arab natural increase rate.
“Continuation of current trends will result in a convergence in 2025 of the natural increase rate [which does not include migration!] for Jews and Arabs in Israel. For the first time in the modern history of the Land of Israel, the Arab natural increase rate may not be higher but rather equal to the natural increase rate of the Jews. Given the possibility of continued Jewish immigration, one can expect an intensification of the steadily rising Jewish share of the total population of the Land of Israel.
“The decline in the Palestinian natural increase rate in Judea and Samaria [caused by modernity] is accelerating even faster than among Israeli Arabs. Combined with a massive emigration of Arab youth from these territories, especially from Judea and Samaria, the size of the younger age group will be reduced and coincidentally, the elderly age cohort of the population will increase, resulting in an increased mortality rate in the near future. Following these trends, the natural increase rate of Arabs in Judea and Samaria will be decreasing even faster.
“Any proper analysis of demographic developments in the Land of Israel must take into account the critical role of the migration balance. Aliya—Jewish repatriation—has been a significant factor in narrowing the difference between Jewish and Arab natural increase rates. Israel may experience a substantial Aliya wave into the near future, including an influx of skilled professionals, a welcome addition to Israel’s fast developing economy. The recent discoveries of huge gas deposits create an enormous momentum for the Israeli economy that is bound to change the geopolitical situation in the Middle East.
Many Israeli expatriates may also seriously consider returning to the Jewish state. During the years 2000-10, the number of returning Israelis was 21.3 percent higher than the previous decade. These developments would lead to a further increase in the annual growth of the Jewish population.
Of equal importance are emigration trends of the Arab population that began long before the 1967 Six-Day War. Demographer Justin McCarthy has estimated that about 200,000 Arabs emigrated from Judea and Samaria between 1949 and 1967. ‘After 1948, Palestinian high fertility and the limited economic potential of the land led to out-migration. The West Bank, in particular, had sizable out-migration from 1948 to 1967… Emigration was now large-scale and directed mainly to the Arab world.’ Migration rates from Gaza were much lower because until the 1960s, the Egyptian government, which controlled the territory, restricted emigration.
“According to Mustafa Khawaja, director of the Jerusalem Statistical Department of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS): ‘The net balance of arrivals and departures for the West Bank in the period 1967 to the present has been consistently negative, with an average of about 10,000 leaving annually…. The main reason for migration by Palestinians relates to the economic factors resulting from the political instability and the infighting between the Palestinian parties.” Egyptian journalist, Bissan Edwan, stated that ‘according to Jordanian statistics, at least 150,000 Palestinians left the West Bank during the intifada years from 2000 to 2002 and did not return,’ concluding that the economic situation in the Palestinian Authority territories could lead to new waves of emigration. Arab emigration from Judea and Samaria increased even more in 2007-09. During the first seven months of 2008, the Jordanian-Palestinian border-crossing point located near the Karame bridge registered a negative migration balance of 63,386 people while in the first eight months of 2009, there was reported a negative migration balance of 44,000 people.
“World Bank figures also indicated a decrease in the size of the Palestinian population, by 0.45 percent in 2009 and by 0.37 percent in 2010. Thus, in 2009-10, the negative migration balance was higher than the natural increase of the Arab population in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip.
“In December 2006, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) proclaimed that the ‘Palestinian population and the Jewish population [east of the Jordan river] will be equal in 2010 … the Palestinian population will increase to 5.7 million in mid-2010.’ The reality was different: At the end of 2010, the PCBS issued a press release claiming that there were actually 4,108,631 Arabs in Palestinian-administered territories, 918,949 less than it had projected in 2001. Similarly, a PCBS press release on December 31, 2012, estimated the Arab population at 4.4 million, a number smaller by 955,000 than it had previously predicted. The recent PCBS projection made at the end of 2012 stated that ‘the number of Palestinians in historical Palestine [including Israeli Arabs] will total 7.2 million….This estimate is 1,362,439 less than projected by PCBS in 2001.
“Population growth for the Land of Israel at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century will be influenced by the Arab and Jewish natural increase rates reaching a convergence point based on similar live birth and mortality rates. It will also likely be influenced by continued Jewish immigration, including a new, possibly strong wave in the near future following the prolonged world economic crisis and manifestations of rising anti-Semitism around the globe. Repatriation will also be encouraged if the Israeli economy continues to be strong in the near future, an increased likelihood based in part on the huge gas and shale oil fields recently discovered in Israel. The share of Jews in the total population of the Land of Israel may also increase as a result of continued Arab emigration that may include Israeli Arabs as well.”