Million Person Gap: A Critical
Look at Palestinian Demography
By Bennett Zimmerman, Roberta Seid and Michael L. Wise
statistics and predictions of the Palestinian Central Bureau
of Statistics (PCBS) are unreliable.
A BESA study that
subjects Palestinian demography to rigorous analysis shows that
the 2004 Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza stood
at 2.5 million; not the 3.8 million claimed by the Palestinians.
The 1997 PCBS population survey – which has been widely
used as the basis for subsequent studies – inflated numbers by
including over three hundred thousand Palestinians living abroad
and double-counting over two hundred thousand Jerusalem Arabs
included in Israel’s population survey. Later PCBS broadcasts
echoed the forecasts of the 1997 study, reporting unrealized
birth forecasts, including assumptions of mass Palestinian immigration
that never occurred, and disregarding significant Palestinian
emigration from the territories to Israel and neighboring Arab
countries. The resulting PCBS report for 2004 inflated the size
of the Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza by over fifty
percent. The BESA study and further demographic research indicate
that Israeli concerns about demographic pressure from the West
Bank and Gaza have been exaggerated.
to demographic projections by the United Nations, the U.S.
Census Bureau, and the Palestinian National
the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza are the world’s fastest
growing population – and residents of the Palestinian National
Authority will outnumber Israeli Jews in the foreseeable future.
But are these estimates accurate?
study "The Million Person Gap: The Arab Population
in the West Bank and Gaza", (the full 80-page study, with
charts, tables and sources, is available (Here)
finds inconsistencies and contradictions in the Palestinian National
that make it clear that the size of the population in the West
Bank and Gaza has been significantly – and increasingly – exaggerated.
The first official Palestinian number for the West Bank and
Gaza, issued in 1997 by the Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics
(PCBS), was 2.78 million people. At the same time, the PCBS forecast
that its population would grow to 5.81 million people by 2015.
This forecast became the basis of all future population reports
issued by the PCBS. In 2004, following its pre-determined schedule,
the PCBS reported that 3.8 million Arabs were living in the territories.
By combining this figure with 1.3 million Israeli Arabs, the
conclusion was reached that there were 5.1 million Arabs living
west of the Jordan River.
Israel estimated in at year-end 1996 that there were 2.11 million
Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian figures diverged
in 1997, when the PCBS issued a number of 2.78 million. The question
then became whether the Palestinians over-counted or the Israelis
This is what we found:
1997 PCBS population base was inflated by the inclusion of
living abroad and of Jerusalem Arabs already counted
in Israel’s population survey. The PCBS augmented the
definition of de facto residents, a term usually reserved for
individuals present in a territory, to include persons living
projections with respect to birth and immigration were not
met in any year between 1997
and 2004. The actual birth
data recorded annually by the PA Ministry of Health and corroborated
by the PA Ministry of Education showed dramatically fewer births.
the predicted immigration, Israel’s
records on actual border entries and exits showed a steady
both to countries abroad and into pre-1967 Israel.
Quite simply, the PCBS predictions were never adjusted for actual
reported births, deaths and emigration each year, but were instead
released as official reports and accepted without question.
Here are a few details:
numbers include at least 325,000 residents who are living outside
of the territories. This number was the main
cause for the jump between the Israeli and Palestinian counts
in the mid-1990s. The head of the PCBS quantified this figure
in the release of the 1997 Census result.
On top of
the population base, the PCBS developed a projection for births
to 2015. By 2003, the PCBS expected
that there would
be 143,000 births in the territories. The Palestinian Ministry
of Health statistics showed a much lower rate of births in the
territories. Instead of the 907,000 births predicted by the PCBS
for the seven years from 1997-2003, we found consistent
evidence from Palestinian agencies that actual births 308,000
fewer than forecast.
assumptions are also an important aspect of the Palestinian
forecast. The original Palestinian
that statehood would occur in 1999 and that people would immigrate
at a rate of 50,000 people per year, starting in 2001. This inclusion
is what made the Palestinian Authority forecast the highest growth
rates in the world, which over time turned into the highest forecasted
birth rates in the world. However, actual activity at the borders
showed net emigration of only 10,000-20,000 persons per year
since 1997. From 1997-2003, the PCBS projected 236,000
new entrants, whereas Israel border records show 74,000 left;
a difference of 310,000.
Migration to Israel across the Green Line is also a significant
consideration. According to an Israeli Ministry of the Interior
report, 105,000 people have changed from the status of Palestinians
to Israelis under family reunification programs since 1997.
In contrast to the 3.8 million PCBS broadcast in 2004: 2.4 million
in the West Bank and 1.4 million in Gaza; our study produced
a significantly lower population figure of 2.49 million: 1.4
million in the West Bank and 1.1 million in Gaza by mid-2004.
The PCBS assumed annual growth over 4.7% for Gaza and 4.4% for
the West Bank; however, the actual growth rate was 2.9 percent
for Gaza and 1.8% for the West Bank.
shows total fertility rates (TFRs) of 5.2 for the West Bank
and 5.4 for Gaza. These numbers were comparable to
the PCBS 2004 Household Survey, which yielded numbers of 5.2
for the West Bank and 6.6 for Gaza. PCBS fertility rates support
the level of births found in our study for West Bank and Gaza.
The PCBS forecast substantially overstated births for West Bank
and Gaza because it applied reasonable rates, but included Palestinians
living abroad and Jerusalem Arabs.
the current population figures, in a separate yet unpublished
developed a forecast based on recent
growth and fertility trends.
that the current 2 to 1 Jewish to Arab majority in the West
Bank and Israel will remain stable through 2025 because
of high Jewish fertility rates (the highest of any Western
nation), high but declining Arab fertility rates, and continuing
modest Jewish immigration, and neutral migration into the Israel
Arab sector. The West Bank forecast starts with updated figures
from our study and uses fertility forecasts published by the
UN and the PCBS for the territory.
The key assumption behind the Jewish population growth is the
Jewish fertility rate. Previously, the Israel Central Bureau
of Statistics (ICBS) had assumed that Jewish TFRs would top off
at 2.6 births per woman (in the high case scenario), or decline
to 2.4 or 2.1 (in the medium and low case scenarios, respectively).
However, between 2000 and 2004, the Jewish fertility rate actually
rose to 2.71. Our research considers three slightly higher fertility
scenarios for Israeli Jews (with a base birth rate of 2.7 births
per woman), and projects fertility rates in 2025 of 2.4, 2.7,
or 3 for the low, medium, and high cases respectively.
For Israeli Muslims, the ICBS projected that the 2000 rate of
4.7 births per woman would continue until 2025 in its high case
scenario. The medium and low PCBS projections would fall gradually
3.8 and 2.6 respectively. However, since 2000, the actual rate
among Israeli Muslims has rapidly dropped to 4.36, following
along the lowest trajectory developed by the ICBS. Similarly,
the overall Israel Arab (including Christian Arabs and Druze)
TFR has fallen to 4.0 in 2004. Thus, we predict three new scenarios
for Israel Arabs: birth rates starting at current level of 4.0
births per woman and moving to 2.4, 3, and 4 by 2025 for the
low, medium, and high projections, respectively.
For West Bank Arabs, the UN population estimates (which come
from the PCBS) predict that by 2025, the TFR will drop from 5.4
to 3.2 births per woman for the middle scenario. Our study predicts
a drop from 5 to 4 births per woman for the high scenario (a
higher birth scenario than provided by PCBS), or a significant
drop from 5 to 2.4 births per woman for the low scenario. This
drop in TFR is consistent with the entire Middle East region,
where dramatic drops in TFR were registered across the board
between 1970-1975 and 2000-2005.
The overall mid-case scenario for Israel and the West Bank presented
by our study posits that by 2025, the Israeli Jewish portion
of the population will decline from the current 67 percent to
63 percent. In the lowest-case scenario, the Jewish population
will decline to 56 percent of the population, whereas in the
highest-case scenario the Jewish population will grow to 71 percent
of the population in Israel and the West Bank. For Israel proper,
the mid-case scenario posits that the percentage of Israeli Jews
will drop from the current 81 percent to 77 percent in 2025.
The low-case scenario could see the percentage of Israeli Jews
drop to as low as 72 percent, and the high-case scenario could
see the percentage of Israeli Jews rise to 83 percent.
Ultimately, contrary to popular belief, there has been tremendous
stability in the demographic balance in the area, which, barring
large-scale migrations, can be expected to continue over the
next twenty years. Thus, we find that Israeli concerns about
demographic pressure, especially those from the West Bank, have
been exaggerated. In truth, while the long-term outcome could
change either way depending on fertility and migration patterns,
the demographic challenges in Israeli society remain similar
to the levels seen since 1967. Moreover, the false PCBS figures
have influenced infrastructure planning including water and land
use, and have served as the basis for American and international
foreign aid to the PA.
By Former Ambassador Yoram Ettinger
has succeeded – more than Palestinian terrorism
and more than US and global pressure – to afflict Israel’s
policy-makers with weariness. However, Demographobia has
been based on grossly erroneous data, as clearly exposed
by the "BESA
Perspectives" and by the February 2006 study published
by BESA. Both documents were authored by Bennett Zimmerman,
Dr. Roberta Seid and Dr. Michael Wise.
70% inflation in the number of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria
has been documented, and corroborated, by data published by
the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and
67%:33% durable Jewish majority has prevailed in the Green
Line and Judea & Samaria (60%:40% including Gaza) for 40
years, compared with an 8% minority in 1900, 33% in 1947 and
45% in 1949 (including Gaza). The long-term demographic trend
bodes well for the Jewish majority. Palestinian birth rate
declines systematically (as has been the case throughout Muslim
and Arab societies), while net emigration has persisted since
JEWISH DEMOGRAPHIC MOMENTUM has been in motion, as evidenced
by the annual rise in Jewish births from 1995 (80,000) to 2004
(104,000), while the number of Arab birth (within the Green
Line) has stagnated around 40,000 annually. Net positive Jewish
migration (Aliya and returnees – over 20,000 annually
since 2001) has bolstered the Jewish Demographic Momentum.
Jewish fertility rate has grown to 2.7 children per woman (highest
in the industrialized world), while the Arab fertility rate
has declined from 10 children per woman in the 1960s to 4 children
March 17, 2006 "Gallup" survey
expects convergence between Jewish and Arab fertility rates
west of the Jordan River (while net positive Jewish migration
and net negative Arab migration persists)!
Fatalism has misled Israel’s policy-makers to assume that a
retreat from Judea & Samaria geography (although
J&S is indispensable security-wise) would save Jewish demography.
In the process, Security Considerations – which are essential
for survival in the Mideast – have been marginalized by Demographobia.
Setting the record straight on demography, would resurrect
steadfastness by Israel’s policy-makers, and would reclaim
the prominent role of Security Considerations in Israel’s public
debate on the future of Judea & Samaria.
we heed a lesson of this week’s portion of the Torah (Be’Ha’alotkha)
and of Maimonedes (whose marble replica is featured at the
House Chamber on Capitol Hill): Weariness is a prescription
for oblivion and should not be tolerated.