“Turkish Elections: A Democracy or Autocracy
An Update on Egypt”
Thank you very much for the kind introduction. Good day everyone. It’s not a good day in Turkey. There are times in history when long-term problem catch up with us and become short term problems. Turkey’s present political crisis is motivated not simply by Islamist prejudice on the part of President Edrogen and is AKP party and not simply by short term considerations arising from the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS in Iraq but by the fundamental issues which affect the viability of Turkey as its presently constituted. Let me start with the elections and the short term issues then work backwards to the more basic problems. What occurred on November 1st in the view of a number of observers whose judgement of this I take quite seriously, is that Edrogen effectively stole the national elections. This is the view of Michael Ruben of the American Enterprise Institute, Daniel Pipes at Middle East Forum where I am a fellow, and it’s the view of a large number of Turkish observers. It was pointed out that the results were announced two hours after the polls were closed even though Turkey is entirely a paper ballot system and it typically takes 24 hours to count the votes. Evidently, it wasn’t necessary to counted the votes on November 1st because the result was known in advance. The AKP party came out with 49% vote total at an absolute majority at parliament at the expense of the Kurdish party and other opposition parties. An apparent triumph for Edrogen, but it was a triumph achieved in two ways. One was by outright, ballot box stuffing. In Michael Ruben’s estimate, the margin of votes that were simply stolen by Edrogen was about 5%. Including phony ballots, dead people voting and so forth. More important though than the ballot box stuffing was the totalitarian campaign of intimidation against opponents of the regime. Many Kurdish towns were effectively under siege, dozens of journalists, bloggers, opposition figures were detained. On October 10th, we had the worst terrorism incident in Turkish history in the last 500 years since the Armenian massacres. The dual bombings at a pro-Kurdish rally in Ankara on the 10th which was widely blamed on the government in some fashion or another. The combination of outright theft and intimidation of voters is what gave Edrogen the majority. This will turn out to be a puric victory for Edrogen and will find himself in more problems in the long term than he can solve by stealing elections in the short term. And that’s because, as I said, the Turkish state as it is presently constituted is really not viable in the long term, in my view, or really in the medium term. What is the problem in Turkey? There aren’t enough Turks. There never has been. The S Turks who captured Turkey from the Byzantines after Byzantium was catastrophically weakened by the Phoenician led invasion of 1300, took control of the Anatolian peninsula, conquered Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul in 1453. The Anatolian peninsula was always shifting stage in which many different people marched across and stayed for a while and came and left. At present, the demographic issue in Turkey is one of the most pressing of any country in the world. The Kurds, who are the majority in the southeast, typically have about three children. Turks in the rest of the country typically have about one and a half. In other words, the fertility rate of Muslim Turkish speaking citizens of Anatolia is pretty much identical to that of Western Europe. The Kurds have an extremely high fertility rate. This is clear from the results of the 2012 census, now out, and it is a trend that has not faded. This has been the source of extreme concern for Turkish authorities and Turkish nationalists. A couple of years ago, my friend Nicholas Eberstot, a demographer at the American Enterprise Institute, spent a month in Ankara looking over this data on a contract for the US government, interviewing Turkish demographers, going through the data, and came to the conclusion that in 20 years, in 2043, by any reasonable scenario, Turkish young people would come from homes where Kurdish is the first language. So half the soldiers going into recruitment in the Turkish army 20 years from now will be native Kurdish speakers. This is a trend that is baked in the cake and there is almost no way this can be changed. How could Turkey respond to this enormous change in its demographics? Kurds are now 20% of the Turkish population. They will be half of Turkish young people in less than one generation from now. There are several ways one could respond to that. One is by changing the ethnic character of Turkey and changing the constitution. Making the constitution a more multi-ethnic state. This is something in which the Islamists will never agree to because the sense of identity, the reason for being there, the Turkish Islamists is to revive Turkey’s central role in the region, what has been frequently called a Neil Allamen foreign policy and become the leader of the Islamic world. The Turkish caliphate was indeed leader of the Islamic world before its collapse at the end of the First World War. That’s what they are there to do. And they will never agree to that. The old Comalists, the secular Turkish nationalists who derive from the secular state created by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the 1920s will also never agree to it because the concept of “Turkishness” which Ataturk introduced in the secularization of the Turkish state forbids the idea recognizing national majorities. The idea is to force everyone into the Turkish mold. The war against Kurdish independence advocates which began in 1984 and killed 40,000 people was conducted overwhelmingly not by the Islamists but by the secular Turkish military. The Islamists during the 2000s effectively clipped the wings of the Turkish military and established a new kind of power. Neither of these elements are prepared as a matter of their self-conception or their identities of political parties, their vision of Turkey. Neither of them is prepared to compromise with the Kurds. In the absence of compromise we have is a policy of violence towards the Kurds. There are still several Kurdish cities in the southeast of Turkey that are under effective siege. They have been cut off, they don’t have food, they don’t have water. Dozens, if not hundreds of people are being killed. All of this, in my view, is a ultimately feudal response to a demographic trend which is inevitable and to the inevitable development to a Kurdish state incorporating areas that now belong to Syria, Iraq, and Iran as well as Turkey. It’s worth going back and discussing a bit of Turkish history very briefly. In the fifty years before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire before WWI, Ottoman territories in Europe, in particularly the Balkans, were lost one by one and a huge diaspora of Ottoman refugees was forced out of Europe, into the Anatolian peninsula. Ataturk himself was born in Salonica, the main northern city in Greece. At the end of WWI, 20% of the population of the Anatolian peninsula were Europeans. Muslim Europeans Ottomans who had been forced out of homes in the Balkans by the collapse of Ottoman control in those areas. In other words, as the Bulgarians and Serbs and Macedonians and Greeks took back territories from the Ottomans, the Muslim population was forced out. A fifth of Turkey, at the end of WWI, were Europeans. This was Ataturk’s base and it was because of the European population that had migrated to the Ottoman peninsula, Ataturk was able to seize power against the caliphate and declare a secular government and suppress many aspects in the public of the practice of Islam including head scarves, the fez, he changed the Arabic language to a Roman language and introduced a program of modernization. At the same time, the Turkish nationalists, the secular nationalists who moved under Ataturk, conducted an expulsion and in many cases massacre or genocide against Christians in Anatolia. At the beginning of WWI, one fifth of the population in the Anatolian peninsula were Christian. Mainly Greek and Armenian. The Turkish secularists under Ataturk murdered about 500,000 Greeks and expelled about 1.5-2 million and murdered 1.5-2 million Armenians. So that 20% Christian population was either butchered or expelled at a 20% quotient of the population was imported as European Muslims into Turkey. So that was the great demographic change. That produced a secular government which was called “White Turkish”. “White Turks” simply means European Turks who emigrated from Europe and resettled in the Anatolian peninsula. The so called ‘Black Turks’ were the Anatolian backward, semi-literate Muslims who lived in the Anatolian peninsula who had no access to power. And for three generations, the Turkish secular government was a “White Turk” government. The great change that occurred when Edrogen came back, as he himself has put it many times, is that the “Black Turks”, the Anatolian pious Muslims from the central Anatolian plain, took the country back from these Europeanized Ottoman occupiers who had created a secular government and reinstituted Turkish Islamism. But Turkey has never been a stable or well-founded entity at any point of its history in the last 100 years. Why are there so many Kurds in Turkey? Why are the Kurds the main ethnic problem on the part on the Turks? The reason the Kurds are there is that the south-eastern provinces of Turkey, which are now majority Kurdish used to be called Western Armenia. Ataturk brought the Kurds in to kill the Armenians and drive them out. They resettled and took Armenian territories. So what goes around comes around and the solution to Turkey’s Armenian problem has now become a separatist problem for Turkey. The demographic clock is ticking, like Captain Hooks alligator with the alarm clock, in a way that the Turks can’t ignore, stop but will fight against viciously in the short term. So the immediate response of the Edrogen government to the self-assertion of the Kurds is to try and suppress them violently. What occurred in the June elections when the Kurdish party for the first time hit the 10% mark, which is the minimum threshold that a Turkish political party requires to enter parliament, is that the Kurds for the first time asserted themselves as a major force inside Turkish Parliamentary politics. And that caused a panic on the part of Edrogen’s AKP and the response to that is what I just discussed. Turkey’s response is to effectively ally with ISIS against the Kurds. This is occasioned by the Syrian civil war and the Iraqi civil war have left the Kurds in possession of a large amount of territory and on the cusp of creating an autonomous owned, similar to the autonomous owned that they already created in northern Iraq, and eventually a state. And it’s a state that would almost certainly have access to the sea. This is a teleconference, so we can’t look at a map, but the strip of Kurdish controlled land on the Syrian-Turkish border can extend itself to the sea. So this would be a Kurdish state with an outlet to the Mediterranean, eventually including parts of Iran that are majority Kurdish and presumably southeastern Anatolia. The Turkish governments alliance with ISIS has been a matter of open scandal. Even the New York Times is scandalized by this, so you know that it really has to be something seriously unpleasant. On November 7th, for example, the Times ran a commentary entitled “Turkey’s Troubling ISIS Game” which reports the collaboration of Turkey with ISIS both inside the country and in Syria in order to commit acts of violence against the Kurds and try to suppress them. This becomes extremely problematic because the US is openly arming the Kurds and giving them air support in order to suppress ISIS. The US is finally been forced to ally with the Kurds because there really are few moderate Syrian Islamists whom you can line up to fight ISIS and the Kurds are by far the most effective fighting force. That is an alarming situation for the Turks because of the US, their punitive ally in NATO, effectively arming the Kurds they are sowing the seeds for a future Kurdish State. Turkey has also tried to maintain reasonably good relations with Russia, including on energy policy. Now Turkey is in a proxy war with Russia because Russia is now attacking Syrian Islamists, ISIS, also non-ISIS Islamists. The last meeting between Putin and Endrogen several weeks ago reportedly degenerated into a shouting match. And finally, Turkey is in very serious trouble with China. This has not really come out too much in the major press. The Asia Times has published a number of stories about this. I happened to be in China with a Israeli group in September talking to Chinese counterterrorism people about their Uyghurs problem. As you may know, there is a large Muslim majority in western China called the Uyghurs who are of Turkish decent, they speak a dialect of Turkish. And the Chinese are alarmed the Turkey is advocating for Uyghurs independence. In other words, for the breakaway of the Xinjiang province in China as East Turkistan with support from the Turkish government. There is now a large number of Uyghurs fighting with ISIS in Syria who have been trained there. The Chinese are horrified that they might come back. They have the same concern that the Russians have indicated that the great caldron of terrorism in the Levant will become a training ground for terrorists who will return to their own country, China and Russia, and wreak havoc in their home countries. So the Chinese are observing and have enormous concern in the increase of skill level on the part of the terrorists, the commission of large scale terrorists activities, including dozens of casualties at a time by Uyghur independence people with support from the Turks. Although the Chinese don’t talk a great deal about this in public, Chinese-Turkish relations are extremely strained at the moment. At this point, Turkey, who had a foreign policy slogan of “No Enemies” ends up with no friends with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia. Turkey, if I can shift topic just for a second, this is related. Edrogen is not simply an Islamists ideologue. It is my belief that the natural constituency for radical Islam and Turkey is not sufficient to build the kind of support Edrogen needs to run a dictatorship. The other side of Edrogen is conventional, third-world, economic populism. In other words, like any other Latin American dictator or dictator in other parts of the word, Edrogen has run a debt bubble in Turkey in order to hand out a enormous amount of goodies to people and that has been a major part of his political success. So just in the last five years, between 2010-present, Turkey has increased its foreign debt from about $250 billion to $400 billion. And most important, its running a current account deficit of about 8% GDP per year. In other words, its GDP is about $1 trillion USD requires the import of net $80 billion worth of goods, so it has to increase its debt by $80 billion a year to finance this enormous discrepancy between imports and exports. The reason they have such a big current account deficit, typical of populous third-world dictatorships is because Edrogen has ordered the Turkish banking system to make vast amounts of loans to Turkish consumers and businesses. Credit is growing at something like 30% a year in Turkey, the Turkish economy cannot meet the demand that is being created for political reason, so that demand turns into demand for foreign goods and increases the debt. Given the fact that Turkey has alienated everyone in the region, how is it able to keep borrowing that much money? The answer is the Gulf States. Given the fact that we are in the middle of a Shia-Sunni war, across the Levant, and Turkey is a Sunni power and has in the region has the largest Sunni Army and next to Pakistan the most powerful Sunni Army, the Sunni Gulf States continue to finance Turkey in order to maintain it as a bull-work against the Shia. The Saudi’s are not particularly squeamish about ISIS and support for other Islamic extremists as long as they see them directed against the Iranians. So that in a ISIS-Iranian war, you can expect the Saudis to support ISIS because anything that will kill Iranians is fine with. So Turkey remains on a financial leash from Saudi Arabia. Edrogen is still able to finance himself even though his economy is stolen, the Turkish currency has weakened enormously, and is under a great deal of strain, it hasn’t quiet cracked yet. What we are likely to have for the next several months, is a continue war of attrition with Turkey continuing to support Islamists in northern Syria and suppressing its own Kurds, committing acts of violence against its own citizens. The Turkish debt bubble, as fragile as it may be is probably not going to pop in the short term, the Gulf States won’t let it pop. Edogen is doubling down on everything that he has done. One of his key electoral planks in the November elections was to increase the minimum wage by 30%. His central bank and most economist in Turkey pointed out that he already has 10% inflation and a huge expansion of external debt so it’s probably a very bad time to have a 30% increase in the minimum wage. But Edrogen is using such measures in typical populous fashion to try and gain support. All of these things have a fairly short time fuse. You can’t run yourself into debt and commit atrocities against a part of your population indefinitely. But given the fact that Edrogen pulled off the vote fraud on November 1st, no one called him on it and he is still getting money from the Gulf States, I don’t believe that this is going to snap in the short run. It’s more a 1-2 year time horizon before something really goes haywire either economically or politically inside the Turkish state.
Now, let me switch gears for a moment to Egypt as Adam requested. Egypt is a terribly poor country. Half the population lives on less than $2 a day. But it’s interesting that in all the discussion of all the Muslim refugees in Europe, you hear nothing about Egyptians. There are no Egyptians fleeing Egypt. On the contrary, you have millions of Egyptians working outside Egypt, in the Gulf Countries, Europe and elsewhere. And the reason that Egypt is afloat economically Egyptians are sending more than $20 billion a year back to Egypt in the form of remittances. In other words, they believe in their country, they are supporting their family, working abroad but they are working and sending their money home. That is what is keeping Egypt afloat and that is a measure of the cohesiveness of Egypt. Egypt of course has an economic crisis and has been in an economic crisis for years. It’s a country that used to be the bread basket of the Mediterranean, it now imports more than half of its food. It has a vast increment of imports over exports. Its importing roughly $30 billion a year, more than it exports, which is a grave and worrying situation. The reason it doesn’t go bankrupt is that while it has a $30 billion trade deficit on one hand, its getting $20 billion a year from remittances and $10 billion of aid from the Gulf States. The Gulf States will continue to support Egypt because Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are well aware that if Egypt were to collapse, if you were to have another Libya, or Syria, the consequences for the Arab world would be so catastrophic that almost anything is worth doing rather than having that. So Egypt in my view, has the ability to keep muddling through economically due to the population working abroad and sending money home and due to the interest of the Gulf States in avoiding state failure. Since the government of Al-Sisi took over since the Muslim Brotherhood government of Morsi in the summer of 2013, you have had some modest improvements. There are no food shortages, the electricity and natural gas shortages have largely been corrected and a great deal more power has been brought online. Although Egypt is still in a bad economic situation, the sense of power failure, food shortages and so forth that we had in July of 2013 when the Muslim Brotherhood was running things those to some extent has been fixed. That leaves al-Sisi fighting a dirty war against a very significant Islamist majority, which is willing to do spectacular things in order to undermine the military government. This has included of course the bomb that took down the Russian airliner a couple of weeks ago, numerous assassinations of public officials, attacks on Egyptians soldiers, particularly in the Sinai. It’s a very nasty, low intensity, large scale civil war. I’ve seen a good deal of complaints on the part of people like Warren Kessler at the National Interest, Max Boode at Commentary ringing hands over the nasty methods that the Egyptian government is using to suppress the Islamists. Egypt is a country where sadly nasty methods, or no methods, are going to work. It’s a country were roughly 50% of people are functionally illiterate, 90% of women are gentility mutilated, 40% of people marry cousins. It is a very backward, tribal society with a very narrow stratum with a western style educated elite on top and a very large and powerful Islamism movement. The idea that one can apply the niceties of policing that would apply to a western country in Egypt, and have human rights lawyers follow everyone around and make sure that nasty things aren’t done to people is, in my view, an illusion. Egypt is on the front line against Islamists who murder in large numbers civilians and are very dangerous. And to beat the Islamists means a prolonged, dirty war of attrition. Like the French in Algeria. And it’s important to remember, when the French tried to suppress the FLN in Algeria through the widespread use of torture and bombings of civilian villages and all kinds of really nasty things, they won. The message worked perfectly well but the French public was horrified by what the French Army had done in Algeria to support it and revolted against it. But military the French army won on the ground. Fortunately, it’s the Egyptian public and not the French, the American or any other public which will judge what al-Sisi is doing. We may not like this and it may be deplorable, but we are talking about a part of the world where the same standards may not apply. So a dictator like al-Sisi is infinatly preferable to the terrorists of the Muslim Brotherhood. There has been in the American political establishment a certain desire for social experimentation of the Muslim Brotherhood. I spoke a few months ago to Michael Hayden, who was a former CIA and NSA director who told me that we were not happy when Sisi threw the Muslim Brotherhood out in July 2013 because we wanted to see what would happen if the Muslim Brotherhood stayed in power and had to deal with things like garbage disposal and social services, could they evolve into a more responsible social force? I told General Hayden that when Sisi kicked Morsi out of office, in which half the general population in the streets of Egypt demanded that he do so, there was less than a month’s worth of wheat on hand in stockpiles where half the population lives off subsidized bread. People were in danger of starving. General Hayden said I guess that experience would have been tough on the ordinary Egyptian. This kind of caviler attitude towards the fate of nations whose decline and chaotic evolution would have terrible consequences, is in my view irresponsible and elitist. I’m for giving General Sisi all the backing he needs towards the Islamists. I don’t particularly want to go into detail how he does it, I simply want him to get it done. So I think Egypt has reasonably good prospects for muddling through even though I think it would be extremely difficult. The best thing the United States could do would be to give Sisi the backing he requires to get the job done. I think that what will probably happen is that China will become the major economic investor in Egypt. China of course has no particular compunction about human right violations and if the US doesn’t assert itself in Egypt, then Egypt will gravitate towards a Shanghai cooperation agreement with China and Russia, and will be a minor player in the region. My view is that we have two countries in the region that are traditional and reliable American allies. One is Israel and the other is Egypt. Israel of course is much closer to us in many ways but Egypt still wishing to be an American ally critical to us. So American policy should be founded upon strong support for our allies, so it makes the world understand that we back our allies as a pathway to the incursions of Russia to the region. So that’s 40 minutes, I’ve run a bit over the time that the organizers asked me to take as an opening presentation, permit me to stop now and if you have any questions I’ll do my best to avoid them.
The answer is less than 5 years at current rates. According to the IMF, Saudi Arabia can sustain its current rate of spending for five years and then no more. Saudi Arabia is a rich country with a lot of poor people. The estimate is that between one third and 40% of Saudis are actually quite poor. So the Saudi regime, which is a family owned business and has justified its family ownership of the property by being paternalistic and handing out a lot of money to people who were otherwise quite poor. At such point that the Saudi Royal family can no longer act like Santa Claus, or whatever the Muslim equivalent of what Santa Claus might be, it become politically extremely vulnerable. The Muslim Brotherhood or the Islamists argument against the Saudi Royal family is that they are a bunch of feckless, and corrupt and incompetent semi-westernized looters who take the money for themselves, don’t care about the country are not authentic representatives of Islam, and wouldn’t it be better to have a traditional, totalitarian vanguard Islamists party on the lines of ISIS to replace them? What do you need a royal family for? To Saudi’s that are not part of the few thousand group that benefits from the monarchy, this is an attractive argument. So Saudi Arabia can’t go on indefinitely, certainly one of the dangers for Egypt is that the Saudi would run out of money and would not be able to continue the subsidy. However, if you look at the numbers, it’s the Egyptian people working abroad who are bailing out Egypt. The $30 billion shortfall they have in foreign trade is covered to the extent of two thirds by remittances. One third is covered by a subsidy by the Gulf States. There is a way to find $10 billion elsewhere, from the west, from China from other places, to replace the Saudi’s. I don’t like the idea that the Egyptian government is dependent on the Gulf States. I think there are many things that could be done in terms of economic development and efficiency by the United States and by others which would help get them out of this dependency relationship. It’s a sloth and inattention in part of the US and the West that causes this dependency that I as point out is at considerable risk.
2). What sort of life span do you give the government of al-Sisi?
Well, I think if al-Sisi can maintain and continue to meet the basic economic requirements I think he could last a very long time. Mubarak lasted for 30 years. There’s no reason why al-Sisi couldn’t last a long time. He is fighting a very brutal war against the minority. The majority of Egyptians do not support the Islamists, I think the Islamists are using terrorists methods because they are an unpopular minority. They had their chance under Morsi. The vast majority of Egyptians turned against the Islamists. So I think that al-Sisi can be a viable government for a considerable period of time, providing that the economic situation does not get out of his control. The best thing that we can do, in terms of stability is to make sure, well we can’t make sure, but do the best we can to make sure the economic situation is not what blows him up. If you look at what the impact was at Libya going to pieces and how destabilizing that was for the entire region, refugee problems and so forth, put a zero to the right of that if Egypt were to become destabilized. The consequences would be really staggering for everyone and certainly for Israel who has a functioning peace treaty. I have to hand it to al-Sisi, I mean al-Sisi has done more to hurt Hamas than anyone else in the world including the Israeli government. Digging the sea tunnels on the Gaza border and flooding the smuggling tunnels was a decisive action. Hamas was aghast at what Egypt has done; they have hurt them very badly. They will continue to hurt them. Having an Arab government which is committed to suppressing Islamist terrorists like Hamas and their cousins inside Egypt, is a huge asset to the west.
3). There are reports that Edrogen is suffering from cancer. Is this correct and are you aware of a prognosis? What effect would this have on Turkey in the near future?
I have heard the reports and have no way of knowing the prognosis and have no way to evaluate it. I am sorry. I have to pass on that.
4). Do you believe that the different Kurdish groups(in Iraq, Syria, the PKK etc) will unite?
I think they will unite. The Syrian and Kurdish differences are more a matter of initials than content. Basically it’s all PKK. The Iranians are in a very different situation. And of course they have had to under such secrecy and keep a low profile that it is very difficult to evaluate them from the outside. I don’t care too much how that evolves. I think the Kurds certainly deserve a state and I think they will have it eventually. I think it is in the interest of the United States to help them to get there in the right way, but we don’t need to force the process. Let them have whatever kind of state or states they please. Its really not our business to tell them how to move in that direction but my sense is that Kurdish nationalism is an overriding umbrella factor and will be much more important than the petty political differences.
5). Do the Turkish populations that have immigrated to Europe have the same demographic problems than the Turks in Turkey?
Turks in general have the same demographic profile as western Europeans. The Turks in Germany has slightly higher fertility rates than Germans, but the Germans are pretty good at corrupting immigrants, or at least Turks. There has been a considerable amount of assimilation of Turks into German habits. The Turks by themselves has not represented any threat to German demographics up to the presence of the 1.5 million refugees who will probably pour into Germany over the next year. That does change German demographics. But overall, the Turkish have had slightly higher fertility rates and it hasn’t changed German demographics noticeably. It is not like the Moroccans or Senegalese in France or the Pakistanis in England.
6). What should Israel to vis-a-visTurkey and should Israel has relations with a future Kurdistan?
Israel has been helping the Kurds in Iraq from the very beginning. Israeli military advisors have been active with the Kurds for 20 years. Israeli-Kurdish relations remain excellent and I hope they continue to remain excellent. There is very little that Israel can do with the Turks right now because Turkey is supporting Hamas, giving them a base. Its supporting ISIS and other elements that are irreconcilable with Israelis existence. Israeli-Turkish trade remains pretty strong, there are many ties between civil society and business. And the best thing that Israel can do is to maintain a low profile with Turkish businesses and individuals, if possible. But at the Diplomatic level, with Edrogen in his present rampage, I just don’t see what the Israeli’s are supposed to be able to do. If the US and the Russians and everyone else can’t deal with Turkey, its kind of hard of Israel to get any leverage.
7) What portion of the Egyptian economy is constituted by tourism? What role does the airliner disaster have on it? Should we be worried about it?
Well tourists receipts at the top were about $11 billion a year. After the Arab Spring, it went down to $5 or $6 billion. Tourists receipts are in the $6 billion range now, they will certainly be effected negatively. But the really decisive thing holding up the Egyptian economy is neither tourism or the Suez Canal, it is remittances. The solidarity with Egyptians working abroad with their families at home. Although this is a significant blow to Egypt, the $1-2 billion they might stand to lose in a worst case development to tourism is not going to break the camel’s back. It won’t be decisive for them.
8). Former Congressman Wexler said that one reason Israel needs to make peace with the Palestinians is that the Palestinians are overpopulating the Jews. What is your opinion on that?
This has been a huge controversy. I think the facts are now overwhelmingly are that the Jewish fertility between the river and the sea is at or even slightly higher than the Palestinian fertility rate, leaving out Gaza. So if you believe the demographers I follow, an excellent study was done by the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University, the likelihood or there’s simply not going to be any change over in the relevant demographics for the next generation. It will still be roughly 70%-30% Jewish-Arab. But the myth of the very high Palestinian fertility rate has been circulated since the Oslo Accords and the idea of a demographic time bomb was a major motivation for this, but it simply isn’t true. Israel has a Jewish fertility rate of over three and if you take out the Haredi, the so-called non-religious or non-ultra-religious fertility rate is still 2.5-2.6. Former ambassador Yoram Ettinger has written a good deal about this, I have written a good deal about this, I think those numbers are completely wrong. The fact that the Jewish Peoples Policy Institute and a number of other organizations still consider to circulate the demographic argument in the face of overwhelming data to the contrary, in my view reflects less an objective view to the demographics then a political standpoint which finds it convenient to invent the demographic argument which justifies their presuppositions about what the political settlement should be.
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