By Aryeh Savir
Tazpit News Agency
A newly published study shows that the Arab population in Israel’s region is constantly shrinking, especially in the Gaza Strip, and this in contrast to a constant increase in the Jewish population.
The study, authored by Dr. Yaakov Feitelson and published by the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS), on the demographic trends in Israel demonstrates that the widely perceived concepts on demography in Israel are misconceived.
The Arab population of Judea, Samaria and Gaza includes 2,762,000 Moslems and about 52,000 Christians, approximately 1,331,000 people fewer than the number estimated by the Palestinian Authority.
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, with the rate in 2012 at its lowest level since 1955.
The study cites several reasons for the shrinking of the Arab population in Israel.
The emigration of young Arabs is a trend contributing to the Arab decline in natural growth. It is probable that, following the emigration of young people from these areas, the decrease in the annual population growth of Arabs in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip will accelerate even more. A groundbreaking survey of the political and social attitudes of Arab youth, conducted by the Baladna Association for Arab Youth and Mada al-Carmel, the Arab Center for Applied Social Research, reveals that about 25% are considering emigration.
Another reason in the decrease is trends of modernization in the Arab population. The demographic trends amongst the Arabs in the Land of Israel in the final quarter of the twentieth century and the first decade of the 21st century correspond to the algorithm of ‘demographic transition’, which refers to the transition from high birth and death rates to low birth and death rates as a society develops from a pre-industrial to an industrialized economic system. The continuation of this process, which accompanies improvements in the level of education and increasing urbanization, family planning, expanded education among women and higher wedding-age, contribute to this trend of the Arab population shrinking.
Feitelson points out that the Arab demographic “population bomb” has been perceived for decades as a looming threat to Jewish democracy in Israel. Lately it has been repeatedly cited as a justification for far-reaching territorial concessions. However, recent studies cast doubt on this threat. The Jewish majority in Israel has been fairly stable for decades, the Jewish population and majority has been steadily increasing for generations, and the gap in birthrates has greatly narrowed.
The study, looking into the future and making careful demographic projections, suggests that the Jewish majority in the Land of Israel will likely be fairly stable for another generation. This doesn’t mean that the demographic make-up of the local population is not a valid concern, but it does suggest that there is no justification for panic. “The State of Israel and the Jewish people might be drawn into erroneous demographic estimates that are based more upon emotions than on facts, and make fateful decisions that could seriously harm the future of the Jewish State. However, a demographic policy that would encourage Jewish immigration and the return home of Israelis who are living abroad, continuous improvement in the living standards in the country together with a decline in the natural increase of the Arabs and their continued emigration from the country, may lead to a further rise in the proportion of Jews within the total population of the Land of Israel.” Feitelson concludes.