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Arab Population in
the West Bank and Gaza
The million-and-a-half person gap

The assumption that Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza pose a demographic threat to Israel has to be radically revised. The 2004 Palestinian-Arab population was closer to 2.4 million than to the 3.8 million reported by Palestinian Authority (PA) officials. These findings should have a significant impact on politicians, policy makers and international aid agencies.

The million-and-a-half person gap occurred because the PA numbers are based on Palestine Bureau of Statistics (PBS) 1997 projections, not on actual population counts. The PBS used the PA’s official 1997 census as a base population and assumed the population would grow at 4 to 5% a year, one of the highest growth rates in the world. PA Ministry of Health birth data and actual border entry/exit data, confirm that the PBS expectations were not met in any year between 1997 and 2004. There were dramatically fewer births and lower fertility rates, and instead of immigration, the West Bank and Gaza experienced a steady net emigration. When the PBS incorrect assumptions are applied over many years, the error in population forecast compounds exponentially.

  • Fewer births: PA Ministry of Health birth reports were substantially lower than the number predicted by the PBS.
  • Lower Fertility Rates: Palestinian fertility rates declined from the mid-90’s through 2003, according to PA Ministry of Health, consistent with the trend occurring in other Middle Eastern Arab societies.
  • Net Emigration: Instead of the large immigration originally projected by the PA, the West BAnk and Gaza experienced a steady net emigration averaging 10,000 a year.
  • Double Counting: 210,000 Jerusalem Arabs who are already counted in Israel’s population survey were included in the PA survey.
  • Inclusion of non-residents: Palestinians with IDs living abroad for over one year were included in the PA Census & Projection.
  • Internal migration: 150,000 PA Arabs who have legally relocated to Israel since 1993 are still counted by the PA.
  • Retrospective Alterations of Recorded Birth data.

The PA's Central Election Commission press release of October 14 2004 acknowledged that the number of eligible voters living in the West Bank and Gaza was only 1.3 million.

The resident population in January 2004 was 2.4 million: 1.35 million in the West Bank and 1.07 million in Gaza in January 2004.

Arab Population

The claim that Jews will become a minority in the region are incorrect. Since 1967, Jews have maintained their 60% majority in Israel, West Bank and Gaza and since 1990, the Jewish population has grown by 2.5% a year, only a slight fraction below the growth rate in the West Bank. The declines in Palestinian Arab growth rates and the vitality of Jewish growth rates which are the highest among Western democracies, will preserve this ratio.

The Israeli Arab growth rate of 3.1% was augmented by the influx of 150,000 Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli Arab natural rate of increase remained at 2.1%. Additionally, many observers have misidentified all non-Jews as "Palestinian Arabs." Many groups, such as the Druze and non-Jewish immigrants, identify themselves as Israelis, not as Arabs. Israel is becoming more multicultural not more Arab.

Population Breakdown, Israel,
West Bank and Gaza - Full Presentation

also published:
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) on Jan 10, 2005

Palestinian Demography – Squandering US Policy Makers and Taxpayers

  1. GROSSLY ERRONEOUS DEMOGRAPHIC ASSUMPTIONS underline US policy on the Palestinian issue, and inflate US contributions to Palestinian - related international organizations and to the Palestinian Authority. Shouldn’t US contributions conform with demographic reality, and be reduced accordingly?!

  2. 2.5MN PALESTINIANS reside in Gaza (1.1MN) and Judea & Samaria (1.4MN), and NOT 3.8MN, as contended by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). The latter is a 1998 PROJECTION, and not a tangible figure. It has been embraced by the UN, the Department of State and by the CIA WITHOUT SCRUTINY.

  3. CORROBORATION OF THE 2.5MN figure was concluded with the Palestinian Ministries of Health and Education, the PA Election Commission and Jordan’s Bureau of Statistics, which sharply depart from the PCBS projection.

    For example:

  4. 325,000 OVERSEAS PALESTINIANS are included in the projection, according to the PCBS web site, and according to a March 1998 statement by the PCBS director.

  5. 210,000 JERUSALEM ARABS, who benefit from Israel’s social security, are doubly-counted (as Israeli Arabs by Israel and as West Bankers by the PA).

  6. 238,000 PALESTINIAN BABIES have never been born (1997-2003), when comparing the PCBS projection to the documented births by the Palestinian Ministry of Health (from midwives to clinics and hospitals deliveries).

  7. 310,000 DEDUCTION FROM PROJECTION. Rather than 236,000 projected net positive migration there was an actual 74,000 net negative migration (1997-2003).

  8. 105,000 PALESTINIANS received Israeli ID cards via marriage (since Oslo 1993) and are doubly-counted (by the PA as well).

  9. THE 59%:41% JEWISH MAJORITY west of the Jordan River (including Gaza) is more sustainable in 2004 (systematic decline in Arab population growth) than it was in 1967 (initial rise in Arab population growth). It could be upset by a significant net positive Palestinian migration, which has not occurred since the early 1940s.

Source: Straight From The Jerusalem Cloakroom #185, November 14, 2005
by Yoram Ettinger

This page was produced by Joseph E. Katz
Middle Eastern Political and Religious History Analyst 
Brooklyn, New York 
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