By Zuhair Andrew
A survey conducted by the Israeli Knesset channel shows that 75 percent of Israeli Jews are in favour of deporting Israeli-Arab citizens to a future Palestinian state as part of any deal between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. Almost seven hundred people representing a sample of the Jewish public in Israel were asked if it could be justified to demand the deportation of Arab citizens of the Zionist state as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Twenty-five percent rejected the idea outright; of the 75 percent who agreed with deportation, 28 percent said all Arabs should be deported, 19 percent preferred deportation only from certain areas, while 28 percent said that deportation should be based on a “loyalty test”.
On issues of identity, 50 percent of the Jews surveyed said that they believe that the Arabs in Israel relate first and foremost to Palestinian identity and then identify themselves as Israelis. Forty percent said that Israeli-Arabs relate only to a Palestinian identity, and 1 percent said that they believe that Arab citizens of Israel think of themselves only as Israelis.
While the majority of the Jews who took part in the survey said that Arab citizens’ right to stay in their homes is not a given, 52 percent believe that the Israeli authorities do not discriminate against Israeli-Arabs; 43 percent said that they do discriminate.
The demography of the state of Israel is a major issue and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regards his Arab citizens as a demographic time bomb. In an effort to boost his popularity ratings while those of his political rivals tumble, Netanyahu has launched a media campaign to convince Israelis of his important role in reducing the birth rate among Israeli-Arabs. He believes that this is essential to preserve Israel as a Jewish state. During interviews with a number of television channels, Netanyahu told viewers that when he was finance minister in the Sharon government (2003 – 2005), he reduced state social security benefits to families with many children in an effort to persuade Israeli-Arabs that there was no financial benefit from having large families and so to cut their birth rate. Netanyahu claims that this was a successful move.
He added that research conducted by his ministry showed that the difference between the birth rates of Israeli-Arabs and Israeli-Jews went down from 3% to 1% in two years. Netanyahu said that when he was the Minister of Finance, the ratio of Israeli-Arab births to Israeli-Jewish births was 4 children to 1; when he resigned, he said, the ratio was 4.1 to 3.1 children.
Moreover, Netanyahu stressed that his policy represents one of the most important responses to the demographic danger of Jews losing their majority in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, and he emphasised further his policy’s contribution to reducing social security payouts, thereby increasing the amount of money available for other public services across Israel.
However, economist Avraham Tal from Haaretz newspaper said that Prime Minister Netanyahu is wrong to claim credit for this birth rate reduction. According to Mr. Tal, the reduction took place in 2000, three years before Netanyahu became the Minister of Finance. Tal attributes the decrease to lifestyle changes influenced by western values, pointing to a similar reduction in a number of Arab countries. Reducing social security payments did not have a serious effect on Israel-Arab fertility levels, said Tal and, in any case, the Central Bureau of Statistics in Israel shows that there is a slow decline in the number of Jews living in Israel. The latest statistics show that Jews make up 76 percent of the total population, compared to 76.2 percent in the previous year surveyed. Israeli-Arabs now constitute 16.3 percent of the population, a rise of 0.2 percent; by 2025, the Bureau predicts that this figure will have risen to 30 percent of the population of the Jewish state.
Source: Al-Quds Al-Arabi
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