I take slight exception to Prof. Hanson’s assertion in his column today that “That question [i.e. Will Israel survive?] hasn’t really been asked since 1967.” Here was I asking it back in 2002.
And I think I was too pessimistic in that piece. There are actually good reasons to be upbeat about Israel. Certainly the place is booming: apartment prices in Tel Aviv look like phone numbers.
One interesting reason the place is booming is demographic. Almost alone among advanced Western nations, Israelis have fertility at above-replacment levels.
Whereas the fertility rates of Israeli Arabs, Gazans and residents of Judea and Samaria are all trending downward, Jewish fertility is consistently rising. Moreover, whereas the Arabs are experiencing consistently negative net immigration rates, Jewish net immigration rates are positive and high.
Nor is it just ultra-religious Jews who are pushing the demography. From a piece boldly titled “Israel as Middle Eastern Hegemon” in Asia Times a few weeks ago:
Most of Israel’s population increase comes from so-called “secular” Israelis, who have 2.6 children on average, more than any other people in the industrial world. The ultra-Orthodox have seven or eight, bringing total fertility to three children.
Israel is on the friction boundary between the politically-sophisticated, technologically-creative, high-human-capital civilizations of the northern temperate zone and the rabble populations of Islamia, none of whom has been able to build a nation of the former type after a century of trying and a plethora of natural resources. The friction will continue, and catastrophes can’t be ruled out. On current trends, though, Israel will steadily pull ahead of her neighbors in the years to come.
Israel’s border fence has kept terrorists out for several years now. (Although, as everyone knows, a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border would keep nobody out at all.) The “Iron Dome” missile defense system will turn Hamas’s supply of short-range rockets to scrap metal. Israelis are productive, well-educated, and enjoy a system of politics that is consensual and, by local standards, un-corrupt.
Middle East Hegemon? I dunno … but on those demographic numbers, I’d say Israel’s a buy.