Prime Minister Olmert’s visit to West Europe has reaffirmed the central role of Demographobia – the irrational fear of Palestinian demography – in determining Israel’s permanent boundaries, in spite of the gross errors underlying the demographic scare. For example, Israel’s Jewish population growth has exceeded Arab population growth in Judea & Samaria (2.1% vs. 1.8% during 1997-2004). Moreover, Muslim fertility rate, within the Green Line, has declined dramatically from 9.23 children per woman in 1960/64 to 4.63 in 2004, while Arab fertility rate (including Druz and Christian Arabs) has declined to 4 children per woman.
The Prime Minister has reiterated his position that a retreat from geography is a prerequisite for saving Jewish demography. His determination to withdraw from the mountain ridges of Judea & Samaria – which, in his opinion, possess a unique historical and security added value – has not reflected a cave-in to Palestinian terrorism and/or US pressure. Prime Minister Olmert has demonstrated his capability to defy terror and pressure during the general election of 1996 and 2001 (when he supported victorious Netanyahu and Sharon, the hawkish candidates) and during his own mayoral campaigns in Jerusalem. However, currently, he intends to retreat under the influence of Demographic Fatalism, which has been nurtured by severely erroneous 1998-2015 Palestinian demographic projections. These projections have been embraced, without examination, by Israel’s demographic establishment. They have spearheaded an intensive effort to instill demography-driven faintheartedness in the minds of Israel’s policy-makers and the public at-large. In contrast, Gallup’s March 17, 2006 survey of Jewish and Arab fertility rate preferences concluded that “Green Line” Jewish and Arab fertility preferences are equal at 3.7 children per woman, while East Jerusalem Arabs and Judea & Samaria Arabs prefer 4.1 and 4.5 (and declining) respectively. Gallup indicated that actual fertility tends to converge with fertility preference.
Prime Minister Olmert is convinced that time works against Jewish demography, and that Jews are doomed to become a minority between the Jordan Rive and the Mediterranean. Therefore, in his mind, demographic considerations supersede geographic and topographic (security) considerations in the equation of Israel’s national security and in determining the future of Judea & Samaria. Thus, Demographobia, which never penetrated the mind of Jewish leaders, when Jews constituted a minority of 8% (1900 – Herzel) or 33% (1947 – Ben Gurion) west of the Jordan River, dominates the mind of Israel’s current leadership, in spite of the fact that Jews have been a 60% majority (67% without Gaza) during the last 45 years.
Contrary to Demographic Fatalism, there is a demographic problem, but there is no machete at the throat of the durable Jewish majority, which benefits from a robust demographic momentum. For instance, the annual number of “Green Line” Jewish births has increased from 80,400 in 1995 to 105,181 in 2005, while “Green Line” Arab births have stagnated during the same period at around 40,000, with a drop to 36,000 per year during the first few months of 2006. The Jewish Demographic Momentum is further bolstered by the net annual positive migration (Aliya+returning Israelis-emigrant Israelis) of 20,000 since 2001. These developments have been ignored by Israel’s “Prophets of Demographic Doom”, who have consistently employed yesterday’s outdated demographic indicators as a basis for tomorrow’s projections, thus exacerbating their errors.
Documented births, deaths and migration have refuted – annually – the projections made by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and by Israel’s “Prophets of Demographic Doom”. Demographic reality has vindicated Zionist leaders, who persisted in their attempt to establish the Jewish State, in face of seemingly-insurmountable-adverse security, economic and demographic odds. Certainly, there is no reason for Demographobia at a time when a critical Jewish majority has been attained between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, bolstered by unparalleled military, economic, financial, technological and educational achievements. Demographic growth provides no reason to sacrifice critical strategic assets on the altar of a bogus demographic scare.