After President Obama’s speech to the people of Israel in which he both praised them for their economy and bravery, but at the same time warned them of the consequences of maintaining their current path he noted “peace is necessary. I believe that. I believe that peace is the only path to true security. You can be — you have the opportunity to be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future. Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine”.
Miller writes that Israel can be two of; democratic, Jewish or in control of Palestinian lands. He goes on to make the point that President Obama made in his speech that has been made elsewhere.
He writes “It may just hold the key to understanding why some of Israel’s leaders — though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may not be among them — are willing to sign on to the creation of a Palestinian state, and what sort of deal would appeal to them. In the quest to understand Israeli demographics, there is no better guide than Sergio Dellapergola. The Italian-born researcher holds a Ph.D. in demography from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he is now a professor emeritus of Israel-Diaspora relations. He has also lent his skills to the Israeli government, serving as a consultant to Israeli presidents and the Jerusalem municipality, among others”.
Miller goes on to write “More than 12 million people currently live in the territory between the Mediterranean shores and the Jordan River, what is known today as Israel and the Palestinian territories. Of these, about 8 million are legal residents of Israel — a total that includes those who live within its internationally recognized boundaries, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the Jewish population in the West Bank. About 1.6 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, and about 2.3 million live in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem”, bur adds importantly “Of Israel’s legal population of about 8 million, 6 million are Jews, over 300,000 are non-Jewish relatives of Jews who immigrated in the framework of Israel’s Law of Return, and 1.7 million are Arabs — mostly Muslims, with Christian and Druze minorities. Of the Muslim population, about 300,000 live in East Jerusalem. Of Israel’s population of 6 million Jews, about 350,000 live in the West Bank”.
Miller then notes in a number of points, “The rate of population growth in the state of Israel is higher than the world’s average, estimated at 1.2 percent per year. Among Jews in Israel, it is 1.8 percent — a figure that includes both immigration and birth rates. Among Arabs in Israel, it is 2.2 percent. In the West Bank and Gaza, the annual population growth is 2.7 percent, including a slightly negative migration balance” he goes on to argue that “Israel has the highest fertility rate of any developed country in the world — each woman bears over 3 children on average. Over the last 15 years, Jewish fertility has been slowly increasing — not just among observant Jews, but also in the highly secular city of Tel Aviv. Fertility among Jewish residents in the West Bank is above 5 children. Among Israel’s Muslims, fertility has been stable or slowly declining, and currently stands at 3.5 children” as well as the facts that “Immigration to Israel continues, though not at the same pace of the major immigration waves of the past. According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, 16,557 people immigrated to Israel in 2012 — down from 60,201 in 2000. The fact is, most Jews today live in more developed countries where the propensity for emigration is low”.
Crucially, Miller concludes that “The share of Jews among the total population in Israel and Palestine is slowly decreasing. This dynamic is largely being driven by population growth in the West Bank and Gaza: Within Israel proper, the current 79 percent share of Jews is expected to diminish by just a few percentage points by 2030. But if one also includes the West Bank and Gaza, the current roughly 50-50 division will change to a 56 percent Palestinian majority in 2030. Withdrawing from the Palestinian territories, then, has a dramatic effect on this demographic balance. Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, for instance, postponed the emergence of a Palestinian majority in Israel-ruled territory by 30 years”.
He ends the piece forcefully, “Israel faces two choices: It can be a conglomerate of tribes struggling against each other, or an open society that respects cultural and religious differences, where each citizen participates in building the economy and shaping the state’s institutions. Even more fundamentally, demographic trends mean that Israel can’t have it all. It can’t be a Jewish state, a democratic state, and a state in control of its whole historical land. It can only have two of its objectives at a time. Think of it this way: Israel can be Jewish and territorial — but not democratic. Or it can be democratic and territorial — but not Jewish. Or finally, it can be Jewish and democratic — but not territorial. This third choice is the one that can conceivably lead to a two-state solution”.