This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Demography and the Israeli Election

The victory of Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party over the Zionist Union party led by Yitzhak Herzog was a comeback victory that had clear demographic roots. As a group, Jews comprise 75 percent of the Israeli population, according to data from Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, but the most rapidly growing segment of the Jewish population is the Ultra-Orthodox population which tends to be politically very conservative and least likely to back a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Arabs comprise 20 percent of the population, and among them almost 90 percent are Muslim (most of the rest of the Arabs are Christian). They, of course, are most likely to back a two-state solution and that was a policy promoted by Herzog during this election campaign, as it had been by Netanyahu in earlier times. The remaining 5 percent of Israel's population consists primarily of non-Arab Christians and Druze and people with no religious affiliation. It is probable that they too are more liberal than conservative in their political attitudes. 

The problem that Israel faces down the road is that, as I have mentioned before, the groups at the political extremes--Ultra-Orthodox Jews on the one hand, and Arab Muslims on the other--are growing more quickly than the rest of the population. This demographic clearly emerged in this election, when Netanyahu was able to mobilize the right to vote by raising fears of a high turnout among Arabs. Demographic trends suggest that these problems are only going to get worse, not better, and we have to hope that policy-planners for the region are taking that dynamic into account.

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