During the 1970s, Israel began settling Jews in Arab areas beyond the Green Line, blithely ignoring the vast difference in birth rates between the two populations. The results of that obtuseness in leadership are becoming ever more glaring. As government ponders ways out of the trap, it closes its jaws again, and this time, the cost could be existential.
Israel has two groups of minorities that do not view themselves as part of the state's Zionist-Israeli narrative. These minorities generally want to distinguish themselves from the majority and therefore ignore their environment, as though it had nothing to do with them. This detachment can sometimes result in discrimination, and sometimes in coalition payments designed to release some of the steam.
And meanwhile, a process is evolving that has no parallels anywhere in the west: 73% of ultra-Orthodox men and 79% of Arab women of the main working age, 25-54, do not work.
For the moment, both populations are minorities, and fairly small ones at that, so for the meantime, the state can continue financing their nonproductive lives.
But these segments are growing very fast, more than other segments of society. Over decades, these relative paces of growth will shape Israel.
The speed at which things are changing is phenomenal. In 1960, 15% of the pupils in primary school studied in ultra-Orthodox or Arab institutions (these are today's adults). In 1980, their proportion was 27%. Last year it was 46%.
Unless a way is found to engage these segments of society in the general narrative, then in one generation, maybe two but no more, the demographic balance of power will change our country beyond recognition.
In out future, who exactly will finance these nonproductive lives? Who would be garner to obtain a majority in the Knesset to change conditions, even if they can't be sustained? Who will protect the country?
If the Israeli narrative is set by the ultra-Orthodox or the Israeli Arabs, how many of the children born today will want to remain?
We are rocketing towards the point of no return, and everybody must understand exactly what we face. Without Israelis willing to work for their living, to endanger their lives to protect the country, Israel will cease to exist, and with it, the ultra-Orthodox living here will go extinct too.
And even though Israel's Arabs suffer completely unacceptable discrimination, you need look no further than Gaza and Nablus to see what alternative lifestyle they face in such a future. It is not for nothing that when polled, Israel's Arabs are not prepared for their towns to become part of Palestine, as part of some territorial swap.
We all have a lot to lose if we don't come to our senses, and right away. A crucial condition for changing direction is uniform education regarding fundamentals for all pupils in Israel, of whatever origin or religion; they must be led to understand the importance of the state to their very lives, the importance of work, and the importance of protecting their country and its standard of living. Another crucial condition is that everybody, but everybody, must go to the army, or to National Service.
Where are leaders prepared to state that we have reached the moment of truth in the history of the State of Israel? Where are the citizens prepared to get off the sofa and lobby their elected representatives?
The author is a lecturer of economics at the Department of Public Policy, Tel Aviv University.
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