Israel Needs to Prepare for the Waves of Arab Immigrants into its Territory


arabs.jpgAccording to a new article by Prof. Arnon Soffer and Dr. Anton Berkovsky from the University of Haifa, which analyzes the possible consequences of waves of immigrants resulting from demographic chaos in the Middle East, Jordan is the next country that could be significantly affected, with the threat of ISIS possibly further undermining the stability of the Hashemite Kingdom.

“In a region of collapsing countries that are in states of internal and external war, Israel must prepare for waves of immigrants from Arab countries to its territory, which may endanger its existence,” maintain Prof. Arnon Soffer, who holds the Reuven Chaikin Chair in Geostrategy, University of Haifa, and Dr. Anton Berkovsky, in a new article by the Chair. According to Prof. Soffer and Dr. Berkovsky, waves of immigrants already constitute a real danger to the future of Jordan, and the worst-case scenario would be if ISIS gained control of territories in Jordan and added them to its caphilate.

According to the data presented in the article, 2013 showed a global record of immigrants in the world of more than 232 million people, who constitute about 3.2 percent of the world’s population. However, according to Prof. Soffer, the picture in the Middle East is particularly clear: “We have a globally unique demographic event occurring. The population of the region doubled within 30 years (1950-1980), and doubled itself again within the 30 years following that. That is one of the main reasons why the Middle East has entered a demographic, economic and political spiral, resulting in disorder and instability.” Prof. Soffer added that climate changes that have led to severe water shortages in a number of areas such as North East Syria near the border with Turkey and Iraq, or Daraa in South Syria, should also be taken into account.

Soffer argues that the events of the Arab Spring, especially the civil war in Syria and recurring crises in Iraq, have already created waves of refugees that are changing the demographic population map of the region beyond recognition. According to estimates, 3-4 million people became refugees outside of Syria and another 8 million have become refugees in their own homeland as a result of the civil war in Syria. Wars between the different factions in Iraq have resulted in 750 thousand refugees who have already left Iraq — mostly to Jordan — and in another 3 million refugees within Iraq. These refugees enter neighboring countries and cause changes that threaten stability there too — and so on and so forth.

The most troubling possibility is Jordan. As a result of the situation in Iraq and Syria, a million to a million and a half new refugees have already joined the 6.5 million citizens of the kingdom. The Palestinian population in Jordan has decreased from 70 percent to about 60 percent, while the percentage of Syrian refugees in Jordan is estimated to be between 8 and 15 percent. “The Jordan of 2014 presents a new ethnic, national mosaic that has completely changed the previous balance of power in the kingdom. We need to keep in mind that some of the refugees are infiltrators from extremist groups such as ISIS. Others are in such a bad state that it makes it easier for radical groups like those to recruit them,” noted Prof. Soffer. He describes three possibilities: the optimistic alternative — massive Western aid that helps to maintain Jordan’s stability; the second — the collapse of the kingdom and the outbreak of civil war, similar to the situation in Syria — in this second case, Prof. Soffer foresees the Palestinians trying to take over the kingdom to establish a Palestinian state; the third, most dangerous option is if ISIS takes over large parts of Jordan, thereby joining the kingdom to their extremist Sunni caliphate. The last two possibilities will bring hundreds of thousands of additional refugees into the circle of refugees in the Middle East.

According to Prof. Soffer, if these forecasts materialize and instability grows, there will be a real danger to Israel — not only from the existence of unstable, extreme and hostile regimes close to its borders, but also because a significant portion of the hundreds of thousands of refugees may try to enter Israel.

The authors note that according to data from 2013, there were more than 250 thousand illegal immigrants in Israel, 100 thousand foreign workers and another 92 thousand tourists who did not return to their homelands. In addition, thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have also entered Israel since 1967. The danger of the demographic turmoil happening in neighboring countries could cause these numbers to grow significantly.

“As such, Israel needs to prepare as soon as possible for new waves of immigrants in addition to those who have already entered Israel, and mainly for Palestinians and Arab immigrants from Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon,” Prof. Soffer concluded.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)