Jan. 6, 2017 Advocates of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict often argue that demographics loom as an existential threat to Israel’s continued existence as a democracy and Jewish state.
However, the fertility rate is not a significant concern for Jewish Israel. Per the latest available data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the fertility rate for Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs was an identical 3.13 children per woman in 2015. This means that Israel has no concerns regarding population growth since 2.1 is the necessary fertility rate for such growth. It also means that Israel has no concerns relative to its Arab population because the Israeli Arab fertility rate is not appreciably greater than the Jewish population’s.
Part of the increase in the Israeli Jewish fertility rate can be ascribed to the high birth rates of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Haredi population, but the impact is generally overstated. According to the CBS, the average fertility rate of Haredi women in Israel was 6.2 children. That said, a Pew Research Center study published in March 2016 estimated that the Haredim make up only 8 percent of Israel’s population. The Haredi fertility rate explains some of the rise in the Israeli Jewish birth rate, but not all of it. Another cause is immigration, which continues to boost Israel’s Jewish population. A total of 15 percent of all Jewish population growth in 2016 came from migration. This is in contrast to a much smaller increase in the Israeli Arab population due to immigration, at only 4 percent.
Predicting demographic changes is extremely difficult and the safest approach to understanding and predicting demographics is to develop a clear grasp of the current situation. To learn why the demographics argument presents a false dichotomy and why there is no threat to a Jewish majority within Israel’s borders, check out our Deep Dive, Demographics and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.