Israel is "running out of time," Secretary of State John Kerry told the American Jewish Committee in Washington this month. A two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict must be reached soon or "the insidious campaign to de-legitimize Israel will only gain steam," he warned. "Israel will be left to choose between being a Jewish state or a democratic state, but it will not be able to fulfill the founders' visions of being both at once."
It's an old refrain, erroneous but popular: Israel must make peace with the Palestinians — "peace" being defined as the creation of a 22nd Arab state — before high Arab birthrates turn the Jews into a minority in their own land.
In Jerusalem a few months ago, President Obama echoed the same claim.
"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."
This so-called "demographic argument" may sound compelling, even ominous. But it rests on an obsolete stereotype of Arab women as baby mills, outbreeding their Jewish sisters at such a pace that it is only a matter of time before Jews are numerically overwhelmed on the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.
In the 1960s, when the fertility rate for Israeli Arabs (9.2 births per woman) soared far above that of Israeli Jews (3.4 births per woman), that demographic challenge certainly seemed plausible. Yasser Arafat liked to say that the ultimate weapon in his arsenal against the Jewish state was "the womb of the Arab woman." The Palestinian Authority has always understood the propaganda value of population data. As the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics began its first census in the West Bank and Gaza in 1997, the bureau's director, Hassan Abu Libdeh, assured the New York Times that the results would amount to nothing less than "a civil intifada." In 2005, the bureau predicted that Jews would be a minority in "historic Palestine" (i.e., west of the Jordan River) by 2010. Now it says the tipping point will come by 2020.
Don't count on it.