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Monday, July 25, 2011

Time is on our side

If it weren't the Three Weeks, I would have opened this post with a video of the Rolling Stones singing Time is on My Side. Because that's the theme of this post. David Goldman, who is best known for his posts as Spengler at Asia Times, cuts through the nonsense and points out that time is on Israel's side, despite what many of our politicians tell us (Hat Tip: Manhattan Dan).
The claim that Israel is fighting the clock has two components: diplomacy and demographics. Israel’s diplomatic isolation will corner the Jewish state while fast-breeding Arabs will overwhelm the population balance between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, goes the argument. On both counts, though, the facts speak against the notion that time is running out for Israel. Time, on the contrary, seems to be on Israel’s side.

The Palestinian Authority’s much-feared march toward a United Nations vote for statehood has become something of an embarrassment. A vote for statehood in the General Assembly has no legal implications, and the United States will always veto the measure in the Security Council. Some Palestinian leaders think that token support in the General Assembly will do more harm than good; Palestine Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki last week offered to withdraw the U.N. vote if negotiations with Israel restarted before September. And even the Kingdom of Jordan might vote against Palestinian statehood, according to the Middle East Research Center’s Alexander Bligh.

Arab rhetoric in support of Palestinian statehood, moreover, isn’t matched by real support. Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister, complained last week that Arab donors have paid out only a third of their pledges to his government, leaving the Palestinian Authority without enough cash to pay public employees’ salaries. “The Palestinians cannot count on the friends cheering them on rhetorically to step up financially if the going gets rough post-September,” warned Michael Singh, an associate fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in a blog post on Foreign Policy’s website.

Israel hardly seems as isolated as it did before Greece blocked another Gaza flotilla earlier this month, and the IHH—the Hamas-linked Turkish “charity” that sponsored the Mavi Marmara flotilla last year—dropped out of the exercise. Israeli diplomacy seemed quite effective.


Whether the proportion of Arabs in Judea and Samaria as well as in Israel itself is growing may be the most politicized demographic question in the world. Yet the Israeli Jewish fertility rate has risen to three children per female while the Arab fertility rate has fallen to the point where the two trend lines have converged and perhaps even crossed. A 2006 study by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies claims that the West Bank and Gaza population in 2004 was only 2.5 million, rather than the 3.8 million claimed by the Palestinian authorities. Presumably the numbers were inflated to increase foreign aid and exaggerate the importance of the Palestinian population.

Most of the phantom population, the report argues, comes from births that never occurred:


Palestinian fertility on the West Bank has already fallen to the Israeli fertility rate of three children per woman, if we believe the Palestine Ministry of Health numbers rather than the highly suspect Central Bureau of Statistics data. The Begin-Sadat estimates were disputed by other Israeli demographers, notably Sergio DellaPergola of the Jewish People Policy Institute. Yet the idea that economic and cultural modernization leads to falling birthrates is a commonplace among demographers who study the developing world. In 1963, Israeli Arab women had eight or nine children; today they have three, about the same as Israeli Jews. Education explains most of the fertility decline among Arabs, and it is likely that Arab fertility behind the Green Line as well as in Judea and Samaria will continue to fall.

More recent data also show that the Israeli Jewish birth rate has risen faster than predicted. Jewish births rose from 96,000 in the year 2000 to 125,000 in 2010, while Arab births fell slightly over the same period—from about 40,781 to 40,750, according to a new study by Yaakov Faitelson at the Institute for Zionist Strategies. The proportion of Jewish pupils in Israel’s elementary schools is increasing,


If Israel’s total fertility rate holds at three, its population will reach 24 million by the end of this century, the United Nations’ population model predicts. And if the low fertility rates prevailing elsewhere hold steady, Israel will have more people under the age of 25 than Turkey, Iran, or even Germany. It will be able to field the largest army in the Middle East. And it will have a thriving high-tech economy, enormous energy resources, and a reliable supply of desalinated water. Israel has a near-optimal mix of economics and demographics, while time is running out for Arab countries that have failed over and over again to rise to the demands of the modern world.

There is just one remaining argument that the clock is ticking against Israel, namely “linkage” between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran’s strategic threat to Israel.


Iran’s nuclear program and its support for Hezbollah and Hamas are significant threats to the Jewish state. Yet it is hard to find a policy analyst of any stripe today who will defend the idea that an Israeli-Palestine agreement, even if such a thing were possible in the present environment, might meaningfully reduce the Iranian threat.
Read the whole thing.

I don't believe that Turkey really wants to reconcile with us as he claims. I believe that they decided to skip the flotilla because they decided they have more important goals. But other than that, he is dead on.

And he's making arguments I've made on this blog before about the demography boogeyman being just that and about Israel being better off living with the status quo and waiting to see whether there is anyone - eventually - with whom we can make peace.

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At 1:20 AM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Except for Iran's nukes, unless you can keep them stumbling with Stuxnet type stuff, I would agree that time is on Israel's side. I wouldn't think that if I hadn't seen first hand in summer '06, when Israel kept functioning under major rocket fire. So even the high tech people, if their workplace was closed, just moved their groups to people's houses or basements and kept going. An amazing thing. Now, if they keep building the Iron Dome type deals, even that will become more manageable. Once a few rockets are taken out in a way that makes them fall back onto the senders' territory, I think the number of rockets will decline. The passive neighborhoods housing the rocket equipment won't be as cooperative.

So keep on rolling...

At 11:05 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

If Israel is able to deal successfully with Iran's nuclear threat, the next century will be the Jewish one. Nearly all the world's will live in Israel and 20 million Jews is definitely an improvement over today's 13 million. But there could many more Jews worldwide simply because recruitment follows power and influence. Don't exclude more conversions... with a dying Arab World and Iran having nothing much to offer, I would not be surprised if the world begins to look very different from the one every one has been imagining will happen.

Too bad we won't be around to see it! Then again, Jacob wasn't around to see the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah from Sinai!


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