from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Israel’s Population Bomb is Disappearing

November 16, 2016

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

Everyone knows that because Arab population growth rates in Israel and the West Bank far exceed Jewish ones, the percentage of the population that is not Jewish will rise steadily.  The only problem with that statement is that it is not true.

As The Times of Israel has just reported,

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The fertility rates of Jewish and Arab women were identical for the first time in Israeli history in 2015, according to figures released by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday....Jewish and Arab women had given birth to an average of 3.13 children as of last year....

 

The explanation is a sharp drop in Arab Israeli birth rates while Jewish birth rates have been rising: "In 2000, the fertility among the country’s Arab population stood at 4.3 children per woman, while the fertility rate of Jewish women was 2.6. Since then the gap has narrowed as the Arab rate dropped off and the Jewish fertility rates steadily increased."

This high fertility rate is not simply an artifact of Israel’s growing ultra-Orthodox or Haredi population; the non-Haredi fertility rate is 2.6.  (This is, by the way, a far higher fertility rate than that of American Jews, which is 1.9; the replacement rate is 2.3.) The overall Israeli Jewish fertility rate of 3.13 also suggests that the population balance between Israel and the West Bank will not change: "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. In 1963, Israeli Arab women had eight or nine children; today they have three, about the same as Israeli Jews."

What are the political implications? Whatever they are, the debate must begin with facts rather than assumptions--including facts about population growth.

 

 

More on:

Israel

Aging, Youth Bulges, and Population

Palestinian Territories

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Middle East and North Africa

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