Demography need not make Israel’s destiny

Clyde Prestowitz, speculating on the reason young Israelis are more pessimistic than young Egyptians.

” …the average GDP per capita is indeed high in Israel, but the bulk of the GDP goes to a thin slice or the richest portion of society. The gap between rich and poor in Israel is among the world’s highest. Moreover, the low unemployment numbers mask the fact that a large portion of the population is simply not in the work force. For instance, of Israel’s 7 million citizens, about 1 million live abroad, many of them because they see the corrosive impact of the Israel/Palestinian conflict extending far into the future. Of the remaining 6 million about 1.5 million are Israeli Arabs and about 800,000 are the so called Haredim or Ultra Orthodox Jews. Among the Ultra-Orthodox , most of the men (80 percent) engage in study of the Torah and are not working. Only about 50 percent of the women work and they do mostly menial jobs. Among the Israeli Arabs about 60 percent of men are working but only about 20 percent of women.

Now if you look at the demographics, the birth rates of the Ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Arabs are far above those of the secular Jewish population. So, fast forwarding ten to twenty years into the future, we find the danger that relatively fewer and fewer Israelis are working, or serving in the military (Arabs and Ultra-Orthodox re exempted from service), or paying taxes to support the welfare payments that keep the Ultra-Orthodox alive.

As my friend noted, the real danger to Israel may not be democracy in Egypt, but demography in Israel.” Extract from Clyde Prestowitz in Foreign Policy

But demography is destiny only in the absence of appropriate policies. Liberal voices in Israel are calling for those policies, now: a revolution in Israel, too.

“For 40 years now, Israeli governments have worsened our situation through the continued occupation, the recurrent wars, depriving workers’ rights, diminishing health and welfare services, increasing and aggravating societal gaps of all kinds, and – in more recent years – eroding democratic rights and personal freedoms, and growing government corruption…

The truth is that we’re all yearning for a revolution. We watch with frustration all of those other people who have succeeded in making a change – not just tried, but succeeded – and we want the same. We, too, want to shape our lives, we also want something exciting and positive to happen to us, something awesome and inspiring – and most of all something that gives hope. Boy, do we need hope.” Extract from Why there’s no revolution in Israel – Haaretz Daily

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