Middle East

4.78M Palestinians in lands Israel captured in 1967: Census

The Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem grew by 27 percent in a decade, to 4.780 million, according to preliminary census figures released on Wednesday.

The findings come at a time of renewed debate in Israel about if and when Arabs could reach numerical parity with Jews in the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. This area encompasses Israel and war-won lands sought by Palestinians for a future state.

Prominent Israeli demographer Sergio Della Pergola reiterated this week that he expects parity in a generation — a prognosis dismissed by Israeli nationalists as skewed and hailed by supporters of an Israeli-Palestinian partition deal as a call for action. Those calling for a Palestinian state alongside Israel say it’s the only way — in light of demographic trends — to keep Israel both Jewish and democratic.

Ola Awad, the head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, said she expects parity even sooner than Della Pergola, but used different criteria.

Her office released preliminary results from the 2017 census on Wednesday.

According to the figures, 2.881 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and 1.899 million in Gaza.

This marked an increase of 27 percent from 2007 when 3.767 million Palestinians were counted. In the decade between 1997 and 2007, the population grew at a slightly faster pace of 30 percent, Awad said.

She said the total number of Palestinians in the Holy Land, including Israel’s large Arab minority, has reached 6.36 million, compared to 6.5 million Jews. Awad said she expects the gap to close as early as 2020.

Della Pergola used a higher figure of 6.9 million on the Jewish side, including non-Jewish spouses. He said he expects parity in 15-20 years.

Della Pergola, from the Hebrew University, said such trends have profound political implications.

“These arguments are very powerful and say, ’friends, if you want a Jewish state, we must have two states, and you must forget the dream of the whole Land of Israel in Jewish hands,” he said.

Those challenging such forecasts argue, among other things, that the Gaza Strip should be taken out of the equation because it is cut off from Israel and the West Bank. They also claim that Palestinian population growth has slowed significantly in recent years, and will decline further.

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