In the discussion about the status and the future of Israel most people tend to overlook its social and economic structure because of its political and military prowess. But the greatest threat to the Jewish state does not seem to come from abroad, despite the lobbying against Iran. The Arab Spring is coming to Tel Aviv, but not in the way it was foreseen.
When Zionism was launched in the 19th century by Theodor Herzl it was not very appealing to Jews, not in the least because Palestine was part of the economically backward and politically unstable Ottoman Empire. If European Jews chose to migrate, they preferred North America where industry was rapidly developing and the economy was booming. Zionism was not only unappealing but it was also widely regarded as unrealistic—could rural Palestine economically sustain the livelihood of the millions of urban Jews living in diaspora?
Today the question of economically sustaining Israel is more urgent than ever. Israel has enjoyed generous U.S. economic and military support and German reparations for decades, but the pumping of billions of dollars into the Israeli economy has not been enough to counterbalance Israeli expendures. Israel’s economy is burdened by its defense budget which is close to 25% of GNP and its huge state-apparatus accounting for one third of the workforce. Also its elaborate social welfare is a big burden on the state budget which is plagued by the low level of labor participation among the growing number of Orthodox Jews. These Jews are also exempt from military service.
A look at the official figures of labor participation and education among the young Israelis, reveals some interesting facts. For nearly a decade around 25% at the age of 15-19 and 40% at the age of 20-24 are neither employed nor in education. In this light it is not suprising that it is the youth who are bound for the streets in Tel Aviv nowadays. Tens of thousands of protestors are filling the streets demanding better living standards, more housing, etc. Unlike the Arab Spring that made headlines for weeks, this news is hardly reported.
Sustained insecurity and the lack of economic prospect is driving Israelis out of the Promised Land. Many are applying for a second passport, just in case. Rt.com has already run a story on this topic in June this year, concluding that every year more Israeli’s are leaving for Europe and the United States than the other way around. The ones who are leaving are those with prospect of employment somewhere else, leaving the poor behind. If this trend continues, Israel will end up in a downward spiral which can lead to the implosion of the settler-state: The remaining Jews will increasingly be the relatively low-IQ religious fanatics prone to economic and military parasitism—clearly a recipe for political instability and economic malaise.
This growing emigration from Israel is a trend, but it is too soon to speak about another diaspora, even though one out of five Russian Jews has returned to Russia. This trend will strengthen Jewish determination in the Diaspora to keep the borders open for their Jewish brethren, contrary to the current public opinion of closing the borders to the flood of immigrants coming from the other side of the Mediterrenean.