Fudging population numbers discredits Palestinian cause.
One moment, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, sits stunned by Arab claims that there’s population parity between Jews and Arabs west of the Jordan River. The next, such demographic saber-rattling is authoritatively rebuked.
Still, the matter of demographics within the contours of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains.
Demographic chicanery seems a way of life for the P.A., leading to all sorts of practical issues related to living conditions.
The Palestinian Authority governs Palestinian-led areas of the West Bank via Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction. The P.A. claims 3 million Palestinian Arabs live in the West Bank, made up of the biblical Jewish lands of Judea and Samaria. That number, along with Israel’s 1.8 million Arab citizens and the 2 million Palestinian Arabs who live in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, puts the total Arab population west of the Jordan River at 6.8 million.
The number of Jews in the State of Israel and the Israeli settlements in the West Bank totals 6.99 million, according to Jewish Virtual Library.
In this demographic orbit, the Jewish-Arab population difference is less than 200,000.
Yoram Ettinger, a respected Israeli demographer, diplomat and expert on U.S.-Israel relations, insists there are only 1.85 million Palestinians in the West Bank today along with 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.
Ettinger brings credibility as cofounder of the American-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIDRG), an independent team of Israeli and U.S. researchers. The P.A. is widely known to be politically corrupt and to purposely cook its data to accentuate the alleged hardship imposed by Israel’s defense-driven military controls.
On March 26, reported Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick, the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee considered P.A. population findings as presented by two Israeli government representatives with oversight in the Palestinian territories. Committee chair Avi Dichter responded that the data suggest the Palestinian population has tripled over the last 25 years, something not supported empirically.
Way back in 2004, Glick reported, the AIDRG audited P.A. data en route to concluding the P.A. grossly exaggerated the number of Palestinians under its purview by 50 percent thanks to demographic sleight of hand. Key to such fraudulence is the claim of an annual immigration trend of 14,000 people into the West Bank; in fact, the AIDRG found the P.A. instead has experienced high net annual emigration out of the territory.
Demographic chicanery seems a way of life for the P.A., leading to all sorts of practical issues related to living conditions. For example, something as basic as sufficient water and power can’t be properly allocated if the population total is in doubt. For its part, Israel must shore up its commitment to helping meet such basic Palestinian needs.
Israel’s strategizing on behalf of ordinary Palestinians dependent on Israeli infrastructure support becomes tenuous when the number of people who are dependent is cooked.
“The problem is that even with the best of intentions, without credible demographic data,” the Israeli government “cannot make long-term plans,” wrote Glick, an insightful, outspoken political conservative, in a March 29 column.
Glick, a Chicago native and Harvard graduate who made aliyah to Israel in 1991, went on to assess whether the fear of population parity west of the Jordan River poses any “existential threat to Israel’s Jewish character.” The P.A. “will never make peace with Israel,” she maintained.
Glick favors Israel incorporating the West Bank, which, she argues, would still leave Israel with a two-thirds Jewish majority.
In a March 20 blog on www.TheEttingerReport.com, Ettinger indicated, “In 2018, Israel is the sole Western democracy and modern economy” that “benefits from a tailwind of fertility and net-migration, providing for sustained economic growth with minimal foreign labor.”
It is “far from clear,” Glick wrote in backing a one-state solution, why “the best way to resolving Israel’s demographic challenge is by establishing a hostile Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.”
Glick observed that such a state would operate “alongside the terrorist-controlled hostile Palestinian state in Gaza,” itself a 2005 byproduct of demographic angst on the part of then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Glick believes a Palestinian state in the West Bank would allow “hundreds of thousands of foreign, hostile Arabs to immigrate to its territory.” That would “constitute an existential demographic — and strategic — threat to the shrunken, enfeebled Jewish state.”
In her estimation, the best solution to Israel’s demographic challenge is, and always has been, Jewish immigration, or aliyah. A goal of bringing 500,000 Jews to Israel over the next 10-15 years coupled with Jewish fertility rates in Israel outpacing Palestinian fertility rates in the West Bank would assure at least a 75 percent Jewish majority west of the Jordan River.
Israel may not ever enjoy productive peace talks with the current P.A. government, but that doesn’t mean such talks would be improbable with a new government in Ramallah. President Abbas is 83, slowing and losing his grasp of influence and reality.
The JN believes ultimately in a Jewish state and a Palestinian state living side by side as a partial solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such a solution, initiated by the U.S. or another responsible peace broker, would have to emanate not out of fear of an end to a Jewish majority west of the Jordan River, but rather from a peace-seeking P.A., a demilitarized Palestinian state and a limited Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley to assure safe, secure borders.
If authentic talks are to have any chance of yielding impressive results, it behooves Israel and the P.A. to build on their joint security arrangement to derive true official population data for the West Bank.
Without reliable data, Israel and the West must view the P.A. with suspicion based on assumptions instead of on the empirical data so vital to helping a future Palestinian state, fragile as it would be, not only take root, but also flourish.
It’s time to clean up the mockery that is Palestinian Authority demographics. The Palestinian people, let alone the world, deserve nothing less.