It’s an old refrain, erroneous but popular: Israel must make peace with the Palestinians 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.
Don’t count on it.
Arafat’s boast notwithstanding, Palestinian women, like women throughout the Muslim world, are bearing far fewer children than they used to. Within Israel proper, the birth rate among Muslims has trended steadily downward and stands now at 3.5 children per woman. It is even lower for Palestinians in the West Bank — just 2.91, according to the CIA Factbook. In a 2012 survey by the Population Reference Bureau of family planning attitudes in the Arab world, 72 percent of married Palestinian women (ages 15 through 49) said they preferred to avoid a pregnancy. That was typical of the modern Middle East: The same survey showed most Jordanians, Egyptians, and Syrians felt the same way.