At the same time, Olmert and his associates have been basing their policies for separating from the West Bank and Gaza Arabs on population statistics compiled by the PA’s Central Bureau of Statistics in a census it published in 1997. These numbers have long been accepted by Israeli demographers without question and have formed the basis of the demographic projections on which Olmert and his associates maintain their insistence on the need for Israelto withdraw from the West Bank.
In 2004, however, a group of American and Israeli researchers examined the Palestinian numbers. Their findings, released in January 2005, found that the numbers and the population projections were based on false data, incorrect assumptions and incorrect population counts that inflated the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza by some 50 percent. The Palestinian Authority double-counted 200,000 Arab residents ofJerusalem. The Palestinian Authority counted some 400,000 Arabs who live abroad. They projected net immigration every year for the Palestinian Authority while since 1995, the Authority has experienced net emigration every year. Birth rates were inflated and death rates were deflated.
The research team found that there are today some 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. Today, Jews constitute 81 percent of Israel’s population and will most likely make up 77 percent of the population in 2025. Jews make up 67 percent of the population of Israel and the West Bank and will most likely make up 63 percent of the population of these areas in 2025.
Israel’s Arab population is growing faster than its Jewish population while the West Bank’s Jewish population is growing faster than its Arab population. Consequently, abandoning potential Israeli claims to the West Bank, if anything, accelerates the day when Israel’s ethnic makeup will pose a threat to its democratic stability.
Although Olmert and his associates have been presented with the new data, they have never acknowledged the problematic nature of the Palestinian data on which they have based their policy of separating from the West Bank Arabs. The policy implications of the new data, of course, are unmistakable. If Israel is not in danger of losing its Jewish majority even if it retains control over the West Bank, then Israel may retain all options on the table for ultimate resolution of the conflict — from yielding the territory to a peaceful Palestinian neighbor through power-sharing in the areas to full incorporation of the areas into Israel.
In the meantime, however, removing Israeli civilians from the West Bank and empowering the Palestinian Authority do nothing to improve democracy in the area. The Israeli withdrawals will not add or detract from the overall number of Israelis and Palestinians. While the potential for Palestinian democracy is theoretically enhanced as a result of Israeli withdrawals, the historical record shows that the reality will be quite different — Palestinians in the West Bank will likely lose democratic rights as the Palestinian Authority gains greater power.
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