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Guest Column

Separation should not be an option
By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
Jun 15, 2014 - 6:12:23 AM

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Policy makers and public opinion molders, who call for Israel's separation from Judea and Samaria (J&S), are aware that prior separations -- from 40% of J&S in 1994, from Hebron in 1997 and from Gaza in 2005 -- yielded land-for-terror and not land-for-peace.

They are aware that Prime Minister Ben Gurion did not separate from -- but annexed -- Western Jerusalem and additional parts of the Land of Israel during the 1948/9 war. Ben Gurion did not believe in land-for-peace, expanding Israel's sovereignty (including significant construction) by 40%, in defiance of brutal US and European pressure. They know that Prime Minister Eshkol did not engage in land-for-peace, but reunited Jerusalem -- the most sensitive territorial issue - annexing Eastern Jerusalem and expanding construction there. They are mindful of Prime Minister Begin's application of Israel's law to the Golan Heights (and expanding construction).

However, policy makers and public opinion molders are intimidated by projections of demographic doom, which suggest that the Jewish state will, supposedly, become a binational state, unless it separates from J&S. They assume that, demographically, time is on the Palestinian side, since the Arab society is younger and reproduces faster than the Jewish society. Thus, they conclude, retaining Judea and Samaria condemns the Jewish state to demographic calamity. They accept the highly-inflated Palestinian numbers without scrutiny.

Moreover, unlike all Israeli Prime Ministers from Ben Gurion (1948) through Shamir (1992), they subordinate the reality-driven Zionist vision of resettling the Land of Israel to projections of demographic doom issued by Israel's demographic establishment. The latter has been consistently wrong since 1948, underestimating Jewish fertility, overestimating Arab fertility, ruling-out waves of Aliyah (the Jewish ingathering), and frequently projecting imminent demographic doom.

The demography-driven separationists are mistaken, or misleading, ignoring demographic reality and long-term demographic trends which highlight an unprecedentedly robust demographic Jewish tailwind and a modernity-driven, powerful demographic Muslim headwind in the Palestinian Authority and throughout the Moslem World, other than the Sub-Sahara region. Time is on the Jewish side.

For example:

*From 1995 - 2013, the annual number of Israeli Jewish births surged by 65% - from 80,400 to 132,000 -- despite the decline in the fertility rate (number of births per woman) of the ultra-orthodox Jewish sector, but due to the unprecedented increase of secular fertility. At the same time, the number of Israeli Arab births has increased by a mere 8% from 36,000 to 39,000. The Jewish births include births by some 300,000 migrants from the USSR, who are Jews by the Law of Return but not recognized yet as Jews by the Rabbinate.

*According to the CIA World Factbook, the Arab fertility in Judea and Samaria was 5.34 in 1995, rapidly reduced to 2.83 births in 2014, and trending downwards.

*In 1995, the Jewish births constituted 69% of total Israeli births, compared with over 77% in 2013 and trending towards 80%.

*In 1995, there were 2.3 Jewish births per one Israeli Arab birth, compared with 3.3 Jewish births in 2013.

*In 1969, the average Israeli Arab woman had six more births than the average Jewish woman, compared to a 0.4 gap in 2013, and a convergence at three births per Jewish and Arab women in their 20s and 30s.

*In 2013, the Jewish fertility rate was 3.04 births per woman and trending upwards -- or 3.4 births when both spouses are Israeli born -- while the Israeli Arab fertility rate trends below three. Israel's Jewish fertility rate is higher than any Arab country, other than Yemen, Iraq and Jordan, which are rapidly declining. The Jewish population is growing relatively younger (which bodes well for Israel's economy and national security), while the Arab population is growing relatively older.

*In 2000, the Israeli Arab population grew by 0.24%, compared to just 0.06% in 2013, introducing the end of the Arab -- and the launching of the Jewish - demographic momentum, which will gradually expand the Jewish majority of 80% in pre-1967 Israel, and the 66% Jewish majority in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel.

*While the Jewish majority benefits from an annual net-immigration (Aliyah minus emigration plus returning expatriates), the Arab minority has experienced an annual net-emigration (e.g., 20,000 from Judea and Samaria in 2013). A pro-active Aliyah policy could yield over 500,000 Olim in the next 5-10 years.

Theodore Herzl and Ben Gurion were not deterred by leading Jewish demographers, who contended that 8% and 38% Jewish minorities in the Land of Israel in 1898 and 1947 respectively doomed the Zionist vision. Ben Gurion was not dissuaded by the mere 55% Jewish majority in the Jewish state as partitioned by the UN in November, 1947. They -- and all Israeli Prime Ministers until 1992 -- were aware that demography was not constant or linear, but susceptible to enhancement via pro-active policies, especially through Aliyah (the ingathering of Jews to the Land of Israel). Ben Gurion, Eshkol and Shamir did not wait for Aliyah; they triggered major waves of Aliyah, which has shaped the current robust Jewish demography, economy, science, technology, agriculture, medicine and military.

Following in the footsteps of Israel's Founding Fathers, current Israeli policy-makers must not allow demographic difficulties to shape/minimize the Zionist vision. They should shape/maximize the demographic potential, in order to realize the Zionist vision: engagement with -- and not separation from -- the Land of Israel!

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
The Ettinger Report
"Second Thought: A US-Israel Initiative"
First published in "Israel Hayom" newsletter, June 13, 2014

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