Muslim population growth could pose danger for Israel

Baptist Press
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Posted: Feb 16, 2011 5:30 PM
Muslim population growth could pose danger for Israel
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A recent study showing the global Muslim population growing at more than twice the rate of non-Muslims raises concern for the future of Israel as a Jewish state, an expert on the Middle East and Israel has said.

A study conducted by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life predicted the world's Muslim population would grow over the next two decades at an average annual rate of 1.5 percent, more than twice the 0.7 percent rate of the non-Muslim population.

The Pew study forecast the global Muslim population would increase by about 35 percent in the next 20 years, rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030.

In Israel, the Arab Muslim population also is growing at a rate almost double the annual growth of the Jewish population, and a majority-Arab Israel would destroy the country as a Jewish state and could take an anti-democratic turn, Ben Moscovitch of the Foreign Policy Association told the International Business Times.

Wahid Abd Al-Magid, editor of Al-Ahram's Arab Strategic Report, has predicted that Arabs may become a majority in Israel in 2035, and "will certainly be the majority in 2048," and in a 2007 speech to Israel's parliament, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned of "a demographic battle, drowned in blood and tears," the Times noted Feb. 4.

Moscovitch, however, noted that Israel's rapid pace of economic development should be expected to slow birth rates among both Jews and Arab Muslims, reducing the danger of a "bi-national, one-state" situation.

"As it stands, the birth rate of Arab-Israeli citizens is higher than that of Jewish Israeli citizens. The Jewish population in Israel today is approximately 75 percent, down from 80 percent in the mid-1990s, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics," Moscovitch told the IBT. "However, when you develop the economy and infrastructure of a society and a people, that group's birth rates are expected to drop dramatically....

"All of Israel, including Israeli Arab citizens, is developing rapidly. As such, Arab women's birth rates are dropping. Similarly, Palestinian birth rates should drop, as the Palestinian Authority -- under the leadership of Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad -- has prioritized economic institution building," Moscovitch added. "If successful and the Palestinian economy continues to grow, Palestinian birth rates should drop."

A two-state solution for the Israel-Palestinian issue is essential because the population of the West Bank is predominantly Muslim and would overwhelm Israel as a Jewish state if the West Bank was annexed to Israel, Moscovitch told the IBT.

"Annexation of the West Bank to Israel would substantially skyrocket Arab population numbers, and the birth rates of non-Jews would remain high and potentially surpass the Jewish Israeli population," Moscovitch said. "For this reason, it is imperative that Israel not annex the West Bank and negotiate a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians to ensure Israeli security and provide the Palestinians with sovereignty in their own state. Without a two-state solution and the annexation of the Palestinian population of the West Bank, Israel will eventually turn into a single, bi-national state that would dissolve Israel's Jewish identity."

The Pew study noted that, if current trends continue, Muslims will make up 26.4 percent of the world's total projected population of 8.3 billion in 2030, up from 23.4 percent of the estimated 2010 world population of 6.9 billion. However, the global Muslim population also is expected to grow at a slower pace in the next 20 years than it did in the previous two decades.

Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor and senior writer Mark Kelly. For details of the Pew study, visit www.pewforum.org/The-Future-of-the-Global-Muslim-Population.aspx.

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