If you listen to some top American and Israeli officials, Israel's "demographic time bomb" is ticking -- and it's set to explode any day now. Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Dec. 7 that Israel's demographic dynamics represented an "existential threat ... that makes it impossible for Israel to preserve its future as a democratic, Jewish state." Some officials in Jerusalem agree with him: Israeli opposition leaderIsaac Herzog and senior Cabinet member Yair Lapid last week echoed similar concerns that demographic trends would turn Israel into a "bi-national state." On all three occasions, demography was cited as an urgent reason to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The argument, in a nutshell, goes like this: The birth rate among Arab families in Israel and Palestine is higher than it is for Jewish families. Therefore, at some point in the future the Arabs will become a majority in the area Israel occupies. When that day comes, Israelis will have to choose between having a Jewish state or a democratic one, because giving every person an equal vote would mean losing the Jewish character of the state. Israel's only hope of maintaining its identity, proponents of the "demographic time bomb" theory would argue, is to soon cut a peace deal that paves the way for an independent Palestinian state.