by Uri Elitzur
Commentators spoke about the achievement of the Hamas, feature
writers described the atmosphere of democratic celebration in the
streets of Ramallah, but the most important headline was missed by
everyone: one million, three hundred thousand. That is the number of
eligible Palestinian Authority voters in Samaria, Judea, Gaza and
Jerusalem. All together, including everyone – 1.3 million.
In Israel, in contrast, the number of eligible voters is more than
five million. In short, we’ve been fooled. We were presented a
demographic demon that never existed. “Between the sea and the Jordan
River,” they menaced us, “there is already almost an equal number of
Israelis and Palestinians. Soon, they will be the majority.” The very
same week of the PA elections, several prestigious speakers even
repeated that mantra at the Herzliya Conference.
What “majority”? 5.1 million Israelis as opposed to 1.3 million
Palestinians. Those are the official numbers.
For two years, a dispute has been underway between the creators of
the demographic demon, chief among them Professor Arnon Sofer, and
between a group of Israeli and American researchers, whose chief
spokesperson is Yoram Ettinger. The former say the number of
Palestinians is close to four million, and the latter speak about 2.4
million. All of them admit that their figures are dependent on
estimates and calculations, and on Palestinian publications that are
themselves estimates – or perhaps propaganda – because since 1968, no
one has carried out a population census in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. I
am unqualified to interfere in such a professional dispute among
learned men, but here we do have an official number, one-to-one: one
million and three hundred thousand, including Gaza.
No Huge Population Growth
I have already heard one of the devotees of the demographic demon
explain the huge disparity, saying “it is well known” that there is a
giant natural population growth among the Palestinians. They have a
lot of children; and so, the number of people over the age of 18 is
only a third of the population. You have to triple the voter rolls in
order to get an accurate figure, including children.
Excuse me, but how is it “known” that there is a giant natural
population growth? First, you determined that there are nearly four
million Palestinians, when it is known that in 1967 there were 1.1
million. The conclusion from this is that there is a tremendous
natural population increase; and the conclusion from this is that
there are nearly four million Palestinians. That is circular logic.
It is equally possible to do the reverse calculation: to assume that
the total number is less than two million. The conclusion from this
is that there is a small natural increase, and the conclusion from
this is that there are less than two million.
It is possible, however, to do a calculation with no curlicues. We
don’t know how many children they have under the age of 18, but we
know for a fact that 18 years ago, those children did not exist. That
is, those 1.3 million eligible voters of today were the entire
population, including children, in 1988. We must add on another five
or six percent for people who were 65 years old or older and have
died in the interim. Let’s be generous and add on another ten
percent. The result is that in 1988, 18 years ago, there were a total
of 1.45 million Palestinians, including children.
In 1967, Israel carried out a true census in Judea, Samaria and Gaza,
from house to house, and found that there were nearly 1.1 million
people. That is, in 21 years, the Palestinian population increased by
about a third. That is not a large growth. It is similar to the
increase among the Jews. And if we consider that in the years
following the Six Day War, Israel allowed 150,000 people to return to
Judea and Samaria from Jordan and the Gulf states, then the natural
increase among Palestinians is revealed to be even smaller.
But let’s not take that into consideration; rather, let’s fully
accept a one-third population growth in 21 years. After another 21
years, there will be another one-third increase; that is, in 2009,
the Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem will
reach 1.9 million. Far less even than the minimalist school of
thought. That means that not only are we very far from parity, but
that the difference in favor of the Jews is getting larger with time.
Not More Than 10 Percent
Finally, why should we even deal with the total number? If we take
into account just Judea and Samaria, without Gaza and without
Jerusalem, the number of Palestinian voters was around 700,000.
That’s it (the exact official figure that the Palestinians publicized
was 762,040, but that includes approximately 60,000 residents of
Jerusalem according to the Israeli definition – holders of Israeli ID
cards – whom the Palestinian records define as residents of Judea and
Samaria). That is, if we believe our own statements that we have
already left Gaza and that Jerusalem is Israeli and unified, then the
balance is 700,000 adult Palestinians versus five million adult
Israelis. That’s the whole demographic demon.
And now you may ask what difference it makes; am I proposing to annex
to Israel all those 700,000 Palestinians?
The answer is that regarding a small portion of them, yes, but more
generally, no. But forgive me one last calculation, and that’s it. If
we are 5.1 million people and they are 700,000, then they are 12
percent of the overall population. They do not deserve 20 percent of
the territory. It is unjust, especially in light of the fact that in
the tiny territory that remains for us, almost 50 percent of it –
from Be’er Sheva to Eilat – is desert.
Ten percent would be a more-than-fair share.