New York – A major new population study by Israeli and American researchers reveals that the Palestinian Arab population in the territories is overstated by one and a half million (or 60%) more than previously believed. The commonly accepted number of Palestinian Arabs in the territories has been 3.8 million. This new study places the actual number at only 2.4 million.
(The authors of this study include Dr. Michael Wise, an expert in mathematical modeling techniques; Professor Ezra Zohar, who has published several research papers on demographics in Israel; Avraham Shvut, who has tracked both Jewish and Arab populations in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza; Dr. David Passig, an expert in forecasting; General David Shaliot, former head of the Civil Administration; as well as Bennett Zimmerman, former Strategy Consultant with Bain & Co.; and historian Professor Roberta Seid.)
The contents of the study are indeed powerful. Much of its data comes directly from the Palestinian Authority (PA), including low birth rates reported annually by the PA Ministry of Health since 1997 as well as the fine print in the 1997 PA census and statistics released by the PA’s Central Election Commission.
The case presented is so strong, in fact, that even leading Israeli demographer Prof. Arnon Sofer of Haifa University, who was a leading voice warning that Jews will soon be outnumbered by Arabs between the river and the sea — has now admitted that the actual Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is probably 2.9 million, not 3.8 million as both he and the PA have claimed. This means that Sofer now believes the Palestinian population is closer to the 2.4 million figure reached by this study than the 3.8 million number he himself previously endorsed.
The 1.4 million overestimate resulted from several factors:
1) the PA ambitiously projected in 1997 that their birth rate would stay high for years to come; when that didn’t happen, the PA in 2002 “restated” birth statistics from their own Ministry of Health going back to 1997;
2) Israeli border control statistics showing net migration out of the territories of 70,000, instead of the 230,000 net inward immigration claimed by the PA, which is a net difference of 300,000;
3) wrongly counting in the PA survey 210,000 Jerusalem Arabs who are already counted in Israel’s population; and
4) inappropriately including 300,000 Palestinian Arabs who now live abroad and another 150,000 who have legally moved into Israel.
But not only is the current population base overstated by 60% more than the PA claims, the study also shows that the population is growing more slowly as well. Using numbers provided by the PA’s own Ministry of Health, the study calculates that the Palestinian Arab birthrate has dropped sharply from 3.8 percent in 1997 to 2.4 percent in 2003, similar to drops in Egypt, Jordan and Iran.
Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein stated: “This study shows that since 1967, despite the conventional wisdom, Jews have maintained a consistent 60% majority in Israel and the territories.
All of us who care about Israel should be determined that Israel and the U.S. make policy decisions based on the facts, not the apparently inaccurate assumptions of the past. The demographic arguments that are regularly used by PM Sharon, Minister Ehud Ohlmert, American Jewish leaders, and others to promote one-sided concessions to the Palestinian Authority should no longer have the same resonance it once did.
“None of us should be shocked that the Palestinian Arabs used false and inflated numbers to create fear among Israeli supporters and gain more sympathy for their cause. Palestinian Arab leaders who are capable of promoting a society that calls for the hatred and murder of Israeli Jews are surely capable of falsifying population data to their advantage.”