Saturday, May 2, 2009

Obama and Israel


by  Ami Isseroff


  Those supporters of Israel who reacted to the Obama presidency as if it was the combination of the May laws of Tsarist Russia and the election of Adolph Hitler have not been proven correct. Likewise, the Hamas groupies who looked forward to a final victory over the "Israel lobby" have yet to see any results, though many are still hopeful, like Francis Matthew. The first hundred days of the Barack Obama presidency have produced no revolutions in U.S.-Israel relations.


The Obama administration has not done much different from the Bush administration. The Bush administration insisted Israel must not strike Iran. The Obama administration insists Israel must not strike Iran. The Bush administration insisted on a two state solution. The Obama administration insists on a two state solution. The Bush administration bawled out Israel for settlement activities. The Obama administration bawls out Israel for settlement activities. The Bush administration did not nothing effective to stop Iranian nuclear development. The Obama administration is doing nothing effective to stop Iranian nuclear development. No settlers have been unsettled because of Obama administration pressure.


Thus far, the "Obama pressure on Israel" is mostly a non-story, like the dog that didn't bark in the night. It may be fueled by the wishful thinking of anti-Israel (or anti-Israel pro-Israel) groups like J-Street, by the fears of certain supporters of Israel, and by occasional remarks of people like Zbigniew Brzezinski, who are always good for advice about how to bash Israel.


There are good signs: Obama had a Passover Seder for family and friends, the first ever in the White House, though that didn't prevent some wingnuts from insisting he is a Muslim. More important, the United States pulled out of the Durban II conference and stayed out, and the appointment of the "Israel lobby" crusader, Charles Freeman, himself president of an Arab lobby group, as the head of the National Intelligence Council, was blocked.


There are bad signs: The US government announced it will call for changes in the wording of Palestinian aid legislation, so that it could give foreign aid to a Palestinian unity government that included an unrepentant Hamas. The US is anxious to rebuild Gaza, at an price. The US also announced that it is not in a hurry regarding talks with Iran. It seems to think that it has all the time in the world. There are also signs of naivete and what amounts to criminal negligence in foreign policy not directly related to Israel. Secretary of State Clinton tried to wish away the rising tide of violence in Iraq:


"I think that these suicide bombings ... are unfortunately, in a tragic way, a signal that the rejectionists fear that Iraq is going in the right direction," Clinton told reporters traveling aboard her plane ahead of her unannounced visit to Baghdad.


That's one view. A more realistic view is that the US backed Maliki government may be about to be trounced by Iraqi insurgents, and the government that will replace it will make Saddam Hussein look like George Washington. It might not happen, but it is certainly foolish to ignore the possibility, and it is a much more likely outcome than the fairy tale spun by Mrs. Clinton.


Even worse, perhaps, is the fact that the administration seems to be so clueless that significant processes fall under the radar, as happened in the Bush administration. In Lebanon, there will soon be an election. There is every indication that this election will be a triumph for the Iranian supported Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. Springtime for Nasrallah and Iran, winter for Lebanon and Israel. This is not the fault of the Obama administration. It happened in part because the Bush administration and the French government pulled the rug out from under their supporters in Lebanon. In part, it happened because of the consistent failure of the United States and other countries to understand that inclusion of the Hezbollah as a political party without disarming it was not a triumph for democracy, but the end of democracy. If one party has guns, there is no more democracy. "Vote for me or I'ill blow your brains out" is a very convincing campaign slogan. But the Obama administration doesn't even seem to be aware that there is about to be a disaster in Lebanon and has taken no real steps to avert it other than a meaningless statement of reassurance while the US was busy selling Lebanon down the river, and an even more pointless and unrealistic request for "fairness" in the Lebanese elections:


"The people of Lebanon must be able to choose their own representatives in open and fair elections - without the spectre of violence or intimidation and free of outside interference."


What sort of geopolitical genius thinks that sort of appeal would have any affect on Hassan Nasrallah, Bashar Assad or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Disarming the Hezbollah in accordance with relevant UN resolutions would be more to the point.


Beyond these auguries, there is no real news yet, because the Obama administration has not yet gotten its act together. The campaign slogans about change didn't have much detailed thought behind them. If one says "Let's engage Iran," for example, one had better have a good idea of what to do when that doesn't work. When Obama insisted he would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, he should have had a Plan B, to be implemented in the event the insurgency surges. Evidently, he did not, and does not.


Many, many government positions are as yet unfilled, and many "policy statements" as yet are nothing more than empty slogans that may have to be abandoned on second thought. Barry Rubin is right to point out that Obama's Middle East policy has not been formulated yet. It might gel a bit more by June has he implies, but he seems to place too much faith in Hillary Clinton as a "realist." Her statement on Iraq was not the sign of a realist. Even as diplomatic euphemization, it didn't pass the grade as "credible fantasy."


To an extent, it is fair to say that foreign policy of any U.S. administration is never set in stone. It develops in reaction to events, and it is almost always the result of the interplay of different officials and bureaucratic empires. Those who are used to relatively orderly foreign policy establishments like that of Great Britain, France, the former USSR or Germany under Bismarck have a great deal of difficulty understanding that United States "policy" at any given moment in history may be nothing more than the sum total of statements and actions of several different officials. Each may take off in their own direction, heedless of executive policy and announced principles. The behavior of the United States toward Palestine partition and the bizarre performances of UN delegate Warren Austin in 1948 are a case in point, but not the only one. Under President Nixon, Secretary of State William Rogers and NSC Adviser Kissinger famously worked at cross purposes, each undermining initiatives of the other. Stability and uniformity however, are relative. The first months are often the time when it is most labile. Those who thought that the Obama administration was more prepared, or had a more informed or definite or uniform view than its predecessors, should be disabused of that idea by now.


The other half of the picture, of course, is the Netanyahu administration and the USA. Given that US policy is not yet formulated, and given the woeful inadequacy of US concepts of reality in the Middle East, what the Israeli government says and does in the next months is going to have a very significant influence in determining US policy.


Ami Isseroff

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Netanyahu and the United States.



by  Ami Isseroff

The other half of the story of Obama and Israel is Netanyahu and the United States. Like Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu gave the impression during the election that he had a plan, he knew precisely what to do.

Unlike Obama, the Netanyahu administration gave everyone in the world the impression, immediately upon taking office, that for better or for worse, there was going to be a bold and different approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is safe to say that the little speech of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had the impact of a foreign policy tsunami. Pundits insisted Israel was abandoning the two state solution and the peace process. Most of this criticism (or praise, depending on the pundit) was unfair. Lieberman had emphasized that Israel would abide by the road map, and offered peace to Israel's neighbors.

But beyond Lieberman's speech, it turns out that the Netanyahu administration is evidently as clueless about foreign policy as the Obama administration. It seems that Netanyahu will not have his policy ideas together until June, and has asked the EU to postpone a meeting with Israel for that reason. So what was all the fuss about?

Both candidates essentially campaigned on a policy of "Vote for me and I'll figure out what to do." Netanyahu has to understand that the major characteristic of US foreign policy is that it tends to be reactive rather than proactive. It is governed by large bureaucracies that compete with each other, and are very good at shooting down initiatives that come from a rival bureaucracy. When the US has been proactive, as in Iraq, the policy often turns out to be a disaster, because it was formulated without sufficient local knowledge. In Europe, the United States has, or had, a bit more local knowledge because it was working with people and systems much like itself. A Marshall plan for Europe could succeed. A Marshall plan for Gaza would be a disaster. The bad news is that any ideas that any United States administration has for Middle East initiatives are likely to be disastrous. The good news is that the United States will likely change policy in response to initiatives of other players. But that means that the Israeli government must come up with an initiative that is acceptable to the United States as well as serving its own policy interests. There is a big opportunity here for Netanyahu and Israel, waiting to be exploited in Netanyahu's visit to the United States in June.

The Arab Peace Initiative, so called, was designed in precisely that way - to serve Arab interests while being acceptable to the United States. It is acceptable to the United States because in bold headlines, it furthers peace in the Middle East, which is a US interest. It serves Arab interests because it puts Israel on the defensive about peace, while promoting a "plan" that is more or less empty of substance and unacceptable to Israel.

Similarly, the Palestinian Authority wisely adopted the slogan of "Two State Solution" because it suits United States policy and can be, and has been, modified to suit Palestinian Arab interests by making it a threat to Israel tied up with "right of return" of Palestinian Arab refugees - which would eliminate Israel as a Jewish state.

U.S. officials love the Arab Peace Initiative and the "Two State Solution" not only because they seem to further long standing goals of American foreign policy, but because the Arabs like them, and accepting these "policies" is seen as a way to win the hearts and minds of Arab peoples and governments. It is not for Israeli officials to explain that Iranian machinations in Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Egypt and Lebanon are not really dependent on popular support of the "Arab Street" or that Al-Qaeda and its followers don't care much either about the Palestine issue, which is an excuse rather than a cause. They will need to figure that out for themselves.

These broad proclamations are not policies. They are slogans. A slogan can be turned into a policy only if there is a detailed mechanism for implementation and if it corresponds in some way to reality. For example, "A homeland for the Jewish people guaranteed in international law." On the other hand, if the slogan has no relation to reality and nobody really tries to implement it, it is worthless or turns into a bad joke. Examples include "Make the world safe for democracy" and "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

"Two state solution" is a significant corruption of the original slogan, which as "Two states for two peoples." The significant difference is that the "Two state solution" doesn't require recognition of a Jewish state. The departure means that after all, the Palestinian Arabs, for all their reliance on "international legitimacy." still do not accept the right to self determination of the Jewish people that was recognized implicitly by the League of Nations mandate for Palestine and embodied in UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which called for a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine. After 62 years, there has been no progress whatever on that point.

The first task of the Netanyahu government is thus to make "Two states for two peoples" the acceptable slogan and the policy of the United States. The second task is to point out that the implementation mechanism supposedly exists in the quartet road map, which must be updated to take account of new realities. There cannot be any progress toward peace as long as the Hamas movement is in power in Gaza, and as long as the Palestinian Authority does not prove that it is capable of governing and maintaining security without the intervention of the IDF, and as long as nobody can find a way to contain the influence of Iran through the Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Both of those organizations are sure to torpedo any US inspired peace. There also exists an agreed upon framework for negotiating peace, and that is the Oslo Interim Agreement. The agreement was violated by allowing Hamas to participate in the elections at the insistence of the United States, and the current impasse is the result of that violation. The Annapolis talks were an attempt to circumvent the provisions of the quartet road map, again at the insistence of the United States. Both resulted in disaster, because the United States would not follow its own plan or modify it in accordance with reality rather than wishful thinking. It is up to the Israeli government to challenge the Americans to show how the very real obstacles to a real two state solution can be overcome. Israel should also offer a moratorium on settlement housing construction providing the Palestinian Authority is willing to make a public declaration supporting the right of the Jewish people to self determination in Israel.

As for the Arab Peace Initiative, Israel can say that it welcomes the initiative to recognize Israel and make peace based on international legitimacy, and that it is prepared to accept a solution that includes peace based on secure and negotiated borders as required by UN Security Council Resolution 242 as well as recognition of the right of the Jewish people to self determination, and that it is prepared to meet at any time with Arab leaders to negotiate such a solution.

Realistically, it will probably be a cold day in August in Saudi Arabia before any Arab leaders will accept any of the above, but it is the only realistic way to bring about peace. It will also give the United States what it thinks it needs - progress in the peace process.

Since 1949, the principles of Arab peace diplomacy have not varied. A solution is always offered which looks "reasonable" to Americans, but which incorporates features that add up to destruction or dismemberment of Israel - generally these have included territorial demands such as cession of parts of the Negev and always they have included acceptance of large numbers of Palestinian Arab "refugees." The United States has always been beguiled by such plans and thought they were genuine attempts at peace. Israel can carry the war to the enemy in this field, simply by announcing that it accepts a solution of two states for two peoples based on the Clinton Bridging Proposals, provided the Palestinians will accept them as is and not "as the basis for further negotiations. The Clinton proposals of 2000 include this wording:

The solution will have to be consistent with the two-state approach - the state of Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people and the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

The agreement will define the implementation of this general right in a way that is consistent with the two-state solution. It would list the five possible homes for the refugees:

1. The State of Palestine

2. Areas in Israel being transferred to Palestine in the land swap

3. Rehabilitation in host country

Resettlement in third country

Admission to Israel

In listing these options, the agreement will make clear that the return to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and area acquired in the land swap would be right to all Palestinian refugees, while rehabilitation in host countries, resettlement in third countries and absorption into Israel will depend upon the policies of those countries.

It is hardly possible for the United States and for Hillary Clinton to repudiate the Clinton Proposals. It is hardly possible for the Abbas government to approve the wording regarding recognition of a Jewish state or non-implementation of "right" of "return" to Israel.

Netanyahu should also understand that he had better not come to Washington with a big laundry list of "perks" and demands. That puts him in the position of a client state asking for favors from its patron. Each wish that is granted is another string that binds Israel to the United States. Independence is more important than a few dollars in aid or some probably worthless foreign policy concessions. Regarding Iran, Israel.

 has to understand what the game plan has been all along: The United States will do precisely what it thinks it is convenient, expedient and possible to do, and Israel has to preserve the option to do what it feels it needs to do. That has always been the game plan, not only for this crisis, or for Israel-US relations, but in all relations between independent states. It can never work any other way.

As Meir Amit proved just prior to the Six Day War, making clear to the United States what you will do is the only way to do something that everyone wants done, but nobody has the guts to tell you to do. As long as you ask, they have to say "No." No United States administration will ever be caught telling another country it is OK to go to war. If Israel has come to the conclusion that an attack on Iran will be necessary at some point, it must prepare to implement that attack independently of the United States, and if it has that capability, it should make it clear what it will do and in what circumstances it would do it.

If Israel does not have the capability to attack Iran without United States cooperation or active assistance, it has no bargaining chips. It should not ask for favors because it will not be granted any. At most, the United States would do whatever it was going to do anyhow and exact a price for it from Israel. If the United States cannot understand that Iran is going to build a bomb unless it is stopped, and that this is a threat to the United States and its Arab allies, it is hardly likely that anything Benjamin Netanyahu says or does will change their minds.

Ami Isseroff

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Fight terrorism with all your might!



If you are Moslem, you have to behave according to the rules of Islam which are set down in the Koran and which are very different than the teachings of the Bible. Islam was born with the idea that it should rule the world. Islam has to fight the Jews and the Christians and this fighting is called Jihad. Jihad means war against those people who don’t want to accept the Islamic superior rule. That’s jihad. History reveals very clearly that the apathetic give way to the passionate and the complacent are subdued by the committed. This is the time for people to rise up and defend our freedoms. Defeating global terrorism is the single most important issue of our time. It is more important than global warming, than welfare reform, than stem cell research, even than reproductive rights. And that’s because none of those issues can be addressed if we’ve been subjugated to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.


The war against Israel is not a war only against Israel. It is a war against the West. It is jihad. Israel is simply receiving the blows that are meant for all of us. If there would have been no Israel, Islamic imperialism would have found other venues to release its energy and its desire for conquest. Israel is our first line of defense.


Just open :


Friday, May 1, 2009

The Politics of Palestinian Demography Part I


by Yakov Faitelson


1st part of 2

With every generation, it seems, a new demographic panic strikes Israel. Opening the Israeli Knesset (parliament) on October 8, 2007, after the Jewish New Year, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned of "a demographic battle, drowned in blood and tears," if Israel did not make territorial concessions.[1] As a new administration in Washington seeks to revive the peace process, the demographic question has again moved front and center. Citing Israel's eroding demographic position, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen urged Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton to try "tough love" to force Israeli concessions.[2] Proponents of the argument that demography mandates concessions might be sincere, but they get the science wrong. Not only does demography not show an imminent Jewish minority in Israel, but even a cursory look at Palestinian numbers shows just how false and politically motivated recent Palestinian surveys are.


On February 9, 2008, Luay Shabaneh, the new president of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), published the results of a December 2007 Palestinian Authority population census.[3] According to the new data, since 1997, the Arab population has increased to 1,460,000 in the Gaza Strip and 2,300,000 in the West Bank (including 208,000 in East Jerusalem) to a total of 3,760,000 people—an increase of 30 percent in one decade. East Jerusalem is under Israel's administration, but the Palestinian Authority nevertheless counts its Arab population as part of the territory it administers. Thus, the East Jerusalem Arabs are double-counted: once as part of the Arab population of Israel, and again as a part of the population of the Palestinian Authority.


The 30 percent population increase again caused renewed demographic panic in Israel. According to a BBC news report, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said that failure to negotiate a two-state solution with the Palestinians would bring the end of the State of Israel.[4]


But unlike what had happened during previous demographic panics, Israeli experts began to raise serious questions about the accuracy of the census. Such questions had been a long time in coming: Most of the middle- and long-term demographic forecasts for Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip—formulated by demographers over the last 110 years—have turned out to be unsound, often dramatically so. This is due to the fact that long-term military, political, economic, and social changes in the region particularly, and in the world in general, cannot be accurately predicted; what is presented with a patina of scientific legitimacy is often simply someone's best guess. Added to this problem is a more troublesome one: Population statistics and birth rates play such an important role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—from the way that foreign aid is allocated to Israel's decision to hold or relinquish territory—that those attempting to manipulate the perceptions of both the public and policymakers are irresistibly drawn to the field.

Those who questioned the new Palestinian census were correct: The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics' demographic data arrived at its data not through objective scientific inquiry but rather by overstating the size of the Arab population residing in the territories administered by the Palestinian Authority.


The History of Demographic Forecasts

In a March 1898 letter, the famous Jewish historian, Simon Dubnow, criticized Zionist ideas, writing,


During seventeen years of tense work to encourage substantial emigration, after the expense of vast means and with the help of millions donated by Rothschild, we managed to place on the land of Palestine only about 3,600 settlers, which makes up approximately 211 people per year. Let us allow that the Western Zionist committees will work with significantly larger capitals and energy and will move to Palestine not two hundred, but one thousand settlers annually … then in a hundred years the Jewish population of Palestine will reach one hundred thousand men. Let's increase this number five times and add to this the natural increase and inflow of the industrial population to the cities, then we shall receive about a half million Jews in Palestine after one hundred years … Certainly, all of us treasure the hope to see at the beginning of the twenty-first century about a half-million of our brothers living in our ancient homeland, but can it solve the problem of 10 millions Jews, who are dispersed?[5]


In May 1948, only fifty years after Dubnow's projections, the Jews in Palestine already numbered 649,600 people.


Such mistaken projections, however, have been the rule rather than the exception. At the end of 1944, Roberto Bachi presented to the Jewish National Council, the main institution of the Jewish community during the British Mandate, a secret demographic report[6] that included four forecasts: optimistic and pessimistic, and with Jewish immigration as a variable. Bachi based his forecasts on the existing demographic data for 1938-42 and on estimates of trends that could be accepted as reasonable. He assumed that Arab fertility for the ensuing sixty years would continue to be very high (seven children or more per woman) or that it would decrease only slightly (six children per woman). He also assumed that Jewish fertility would remain at about two children per woman but might increase slightly to three children per woman. He also predicted that Jewish immigration might bring about one million Jews to Israel during the five to fifteen years starting from 1946.[7]


These estimates could not be treated as prophecy, wrote Bachi, since the differences between reality and forecast increase as the projected time period lengthens. According to Bachi's pessimistic scenario, by 1971, the population of Palestine would include 2,467,000 Arabs and 604,000 Jews without Jewish immigration[8] or 1,695,000 Jews should there have been one million Jewish immigrants.[9] According to Bachi's more optimistic forecasts, the population of Palestine in the same year could consist of 2,186,000 Arabs and 698,000 Jews without immigration or 1,898,000 Jews with a million Jewish immigrants.


Fast-forward to 1971. Israel controlled the whole territory of the former British Mandate in Palestine, and 2,662,000 Jews already lived in Israel—about half a million more than in Bachi's most optimistic projection. The Arab population stood at 1,460,000,[10] about one million fewer than he had predicted. Then in 1972, Bachi predicted, as he had in 1956,[11] that immigration to Israel would stop as the Jews of the West were indifferent and the Jews of the Soviet Union were forever trapped.[12] Nevertheless, over the next seven years, more than a quarter million Jews migrated to Israel.


His projections for 2001 were similarly off-base: According to the pessimistic forecast, the population of Palestine in 2001 would comprise 5,871,000 Arabs and 563,000 Jews without immigration or 1,580,000 Jews with a million Jewish immigrants. Following his optimistic forecast, the population of Palestine in 2001 should have been 4,415,000 Arabs and 831,000 Jews without immigration or 2,258,000 Jews with a million Jewish immigrants.


The reality was quite different. The Jewish population reached 5,025,010, nine times more than his pessimistic projection, and 2.2 times more than his most optimistic forecast. When combined with the immigrant population from the former Soviet Union, the total comprised 5,281,300 people.[13] The total Arab population reached 3,570,000, some 1,300,000, or 39 percent less than Bachi's projection for 2001.


Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics forecast in 1968 that, by 1985, the Jewish population would increase to 2,923,000, and the Arab population would rise to 49 percent of Israel's total population.[14] In reality, there were 3,517,200 Jews in 1985, representing 62.7 percent of the total population.


Amidst the 1987 Palestinian uprising against Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza, demographic predictions—no matter how sloppy—became the stuff of headlines. In 1987, the Israeli newspaper Yedi'ot Aharanot quoted Arnon Sofer's bombshell forecast: "In the year 2000, Israel will become non-Jewish."[15] The New York Times' Thomas Friedman picked up Sofer's prediction and ran with it in an 1800-word, page one story.[16] Sofer claimed that by 2000 there would be "4.2 million Jews versus 3.5 million non-Jews. The 3.5 million Arabs would include: 1.2 million Israeli Arabs within the Green Line, one million Arabs in the Gaza Strip, and between 1.1 and 1.5 million in the West Bank."[17] Sofer's tally indicated for 2000 a range of between 2.1 to 2.5 million Arabs in the Palestinian territories.


Putting aside the fact that the figures did not justify the headlines proclaiming a Jewish minority, Sofer actually miscalculated the Arab population twice: First, by using the 1986 Central Bureau of Statistics forecast made for 2002 for all Arabs—defined officially as citizens and permanent residents of the State of Israel, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights—as the Arab population of Israel only "within the Green Line," i.e., exclusive of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights; and, second, by folding the Arab population of East Jerusalem into the forecast of the Arab population in the Palestinian territories. Then, he presented the forecast for the West Bank and Gaza Strip including East Jerusalem, as it was usually done by the U.N., CIA, and Palestinian sources. In effect, this results in double counting the East Jerusalem population, first as permanent residents of the State of Israel and then as the residents of Palestinian territory.

A month later, Sofer explained his forecast: "Without even considering birth rates, to make up one percentage point today, we need an additional 170,000 Jews ...Who among us really expects that sort of aliya (migration to Israel) in the near future?"[18] Two years later, though, just such a migration occurred, underlining the inability of the demographers to forecast political developments. Over the ensuing decade, more than one million Jews were repatriated to Israel from the former Soviet Union. Including mixed Jewish families, this wave of immigration totaled 1.2 million people and increased Israel's Jewish population by 31 percent. Demographic prediction is such an uncertain science that even Israeli specialists get it wrong repeatedly.



Yakov Faitelson

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


The Politics of Palestinian Demography Part II


by Yakov Faitelson


2nd part of 2

A Demographic Intifada

Palestinian Arab numbers have always been spotty. There is very little historical data. As University of Illinois economics professor Fred M. Gottheil has noted,

Palestinian demography of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has never been just a matter of numbers. It has always been—and consciously so—a frontline weapon used in a life-and-death struggle for nationhood … The problem with staking so much on so narrow a focus as past demography is that the data generated by demographers and others since the early nineteenth century are so lacking in precision that, in some matters of dispute concerning demography, "anyone's guess," as the saying goes, "is as good as any other."[19]


Justin McCarthy, a University of Louisville historian with a specialization in demography, notes that Israel's 1967 census of Gaza's population was the first in more than thirty-five years; before that census, procedures were not rigorous. At best, McCarthy notes, pre-1967 counts of Palestinian Arabs are "estimations" although he also notes that subsequent Israeli-conducted censuses were scientific and objective.[20]


In 1997, three years after the Oslo accords handed control of large portions of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestine Authority, the Palestinians conducted their first independent census, according to which the Arab population numbered 2,895,683 people: 1,873,476 in the West Bank (including 210,209 in East Jerusalem) and 1,022,207 in the Gaza Strip.[21] It also included 325,253 Arab emigrants contradicting international standards regarding the enlistment of only permanent residents in the population registry.[22] According to the "U.N. Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses," people to be enumerated by the census are defined as "usual residents":


Usual residents may have citizenship or not, and they may also include undocumented persons, applicants for asylum, or refugees. Usual residents then may include foreigners who reside, or intend to reside, in the country continuously for either most of the last 12 months or for 12 months or more, depending on the definition of place of usual residence that is adopted by the country. Persons who may consider themselves usual residents of a country because of citizenship or family ties, but are absent from the country for either most of the last 12 months, or for 12 months or more, depending on the definition adopted, should be excluded.[23]


Even without contesting the professionalism of the count itself, the Arab population stood, in fact, at only 2,360,231 people when the East Jerusalem and emigrant Arabs are subtracted.


Yet the numbers of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics themselves seem improbably high. According to data released by the Israeli census bureau at the end of 1993, the Arab population numbered 1,084,400 in the West Bank and 748,400 in the Gaza Strip, for a total of 1,832,800.[24] If the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics census was accurate, the Arab population in the Palestinian territories increased by an astonishing 527,431 people, or 29 percent, in only four years. In order to reach such phenomenal population growth, the geometrical mean of the annual growth rate would have to be an improbable 6.6 percent per year during this period.


U.N. data for 2006 indicate that the natural growth of the Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was much smaller: an annual average of 3.89 percent per year between 1990 and 1995, 3.7 percent between 1995 and 2000, and 3.56 percent per year between 2000 and 2005.[25] Even these U.N. estimates may be high, as they accepted Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics data uncritically.


In contrast, a 2003 study conducted by this author demonstrated that the Palestinian population grew by about one million people from 1990 to 2000.[26] By coincidence, this figure seemingly offsets the mass immigration to Israel from the former Soviet Union during the 1990s. The study found that Palestinian data suggested that the Arab population had doubled and that the Palestinian Arab population nominal growth was actually larger than the Jewish population growth at the time of the migration of Soviet Jews to Israel. Given the strain and management problem that a population growth of 31.2 percent represented for Israel, it defies logic that Palestinian growth could double without outside observers noticing. As McCarthy noted,


It is difficult to see how the agricultural or industrial base of Palestine can cope with the increased numbers that will result from high Palestinian fertility … Possessing neither the agricultural potential nor the economic base … Palestine can expect a demographic crisis.[27]


This study prompted Haggai Segal, an Israel-based Ma'ariv, Makor Rishon, and BeSheva columnist, journalist, and commentator, to undertake additional investigation on this subject, which he published in BeSheva.[28]


In 2005, an American and Israeli demography team headed by Bennett Zimmerman and Yoram Ettinger confirmed the 2003 findings and, again, criticized both the illegitimate inclusion of Arab emigrants from the Palestinian Authority and the double counting of the East Jerusalem Arab population.[29] The Zimmerman and Ettinger study also revealed that, at the end of 2000, the Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip numbered 2,246,000 people—1,280,000 in the West Bank and about 966,000 in the Gaza Strip.


According to the data provided by the Palestinian Authority at the end of 2005, in contrast, the population in the territories numbered 3,762,005—2,372,216 in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and 1,389,789 in the Gaza Strip.[30] The Palestinian numbers get even stranger: According to estimates by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2006, the population of the Palestinian Authority jumped to 3,952,354[31]—an increase of 190,349 over the previous year, or more than 5 percent in a single year. Not only is this improbable but, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the rates of natural population growth were half of this: 2.4 percent in 2003, 2.6 percent in 2004, and 2.5 percent in 2005.[32]


In February 2005, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics released a study conducted by Yousef Ibrahim, a professor of geography and population studies at al-Aqsa University in Gaza, which said that the Arab population would reach 6.3 million in 2010, compared to 5.7 million Jews, provided that the current growth ratios continued along the same pattern,[33] consciously utilizing the words of Israeli demographic expert Sergio DellaPergola, who said that "the direction is quite obvious. Before the end of this decade, Jews will become a minority in the lands that include 'Israel,' West Bank and Gaza Strip."[34] The Atlantic, a widely read American monthly, asked shrilly, "Will Israel Live to 100?"[35]


Then, in December 2006, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics issued a statement asserting that a "population dichotomy at 5.7 million is expected at the end of 2010," i.e., that in 2010 the number of Palestinian would be equal to the number of the Jews,[36] a discrepancy of 600,000 in less than two years.


In February 2008, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistic, using data from the Palestinian Authority's December 2007 census,[37] found that the population of the Palestinian Authority reached 3,760,000 people: 1,460,000 in the Gaza Strip and 2,300,000 in the West Bank, including 208,000 in East Jerusalem, an increase of 30 percent from 1997. But, according to these data, the population in East Jerusalem is 2,209 less than it was in 1997. This report provoked harsh criticism from the Palestinian Authority, which demanded that these "distortions" be "corrected."[38] Hatem Abdel Kader, an adviser on Jerusalem affairs to Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, said he did not believe the Jerusalem figures were reliable and that the Palestinian Authority believed that census takers had failed to visit many households.[39]


Once again, by coincidence, the results of the population census for the end of 2007 were almost identical to the estimates of the Palestinian Authority at the end of 2005. What happened to the 192,354 people that existed according to the estimates of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics at the end of 2006? Two answers are possible: During 2007, there was a massive emigration of Arabs from the Palestinian territories, unprecedented since the Six-Day War, and the results were registered in the population census; or this was a crude manipulation of the data and estimates of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, especially the gaps in their data for 2005 and 2006. The latter is more plausible. As Hassan Abu Libdeh, director of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in the 1990s, told The New York Times, "In my opinion, [the data] is as important as the intifada. It is a civil intifada."[40] Indeed, such an attitude explains why the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Health has erased from their Internet site official reports containing demographic data since 2000, which might contradict the Palestinian leadership's current line.


The 2007 census clearly shows that the yearly growth rate of the Arab population, according to a calculation of the annual geometric mean over the last ten years, should have been 2.66 percent. By extending this 10-year period to fourteen years, and basing calculations on the data of the Israeli census bureau for the population of the Palestinian territories for the end of 1993, the population of these areas should, in fact, stand at 2,646,871—1,113,129 fewer than the 2007 Palestinian census. The difference between the likely actual Palestinian population and the results of the two Palestinian censuses (1997 and 2007) is probably around one million people, just as the Zimmerman and Ettinger study showed four years ago. The major data distortion was made in 1997, and then the overstated population number became the basis for the future estimates.



On May 15, 2008, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics president Luay Shabaneh claimed that the Arab population in Palestine would become equal to the Jewish population by 2016,[41] echoing similar predictions of an impending Jewish minority by earlier generations of demographers and analysts: Bachi in 1944,[42] Patrick Loftus in 1947,[43] Bachi again in 1968,[44] Pinkhas Sapir in 1973,[45] Sofer in 1987,[46] DellaPergola in 2005, and the Palestinian bureau in 2005 and 2006.

Then, three months after this last Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics statement, DellaPergola once again postponed his previous projection of Arab and Jewish populations reaching equality from 2010 to 2020.[47] From DellaPergola's statement, it seems that the gap of one million persons could be closed in ten years, making necessary an additional annual yearly increase of 100,000 Arabs, more than double the current numbers. But, far from doubling, Arab fertility and natural increase are decreasing following the demographic transition rules.


Why fudge the numbers? There are two important reasons: First, overstating the Palestinian population is good for Palestinian morale, bad for Israeli morale, and heightens Jewish fears of the so-called "demographic time bomb"; second, there is a significant financial incentive, as the international community provides money to the Palestinian Authority according to the number of its inhabitants. When the Palestinian Authority pads its population numbers, the Palestinian Authority receives more money.


Careful demographic analysis, however, should lead to a conclusion in stark contrast to the demographic time bomb thesis. The natural increase of the Jewish population in Israel—that is, its yearly birth rate less its yearly death rate—stabilized thirty years ago and, since 2002, has even begun to grow. The natural increase of the total Arab population, comprising both Israeli Arabs and the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza, continues to descend toward convergence with the Jewish population, probably in the latter half of this century.


The data, moreover, point to rising levels of Arab emigration, particularly among young people. According to the survey conducted by Bir-Zeit University, 32 percent of all Palestinians and 44 percent of Palestinian youth would emigrate if they could.[48] The official Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida has reported similar numbers.[49] A public opinion poll conducted by the Near East Consulting Corporation in the Gaza Strip reveals an even higher rate—47 percent of all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. [50] Translated into numbers of people, as of 2006, more than a million Arabs in the Palestinian territories wish to emigrate. As journalist Amit Cohen noted in 2007, "Close to 14,000 Palestinians, more than 1 percent of the population in the Strip, have left the Gaza Strip since the implementation of the withdrawal program,[51] largely for financial reasons.[52]


In an interview reported in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat around the same time, Salam Fayyad, head of the Emergency Palestinian Government, commented: "How will we be able to deal with the problem of 40,000 to 50,000 Palestinians who have emigrated and many more that are not emigrating just because they do not have the means? We are losing in this respect."[53]


The misuse of demography has been one of the most prominent, yet unexamined, aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many Israelis have so thoroughly absorbed the repeated claims of a diminishing Jewish majority that they do not consider whether their conventional wisdom is false. Before an accurate demographic picture of Israel and the Palestinian territories trickles down to the consciousness of the residents of the region, it must first be understood by Israeli and Palestinian policymakers, academics, and journalists, who need accurate, factual information to do their jobs. The impact on the conflict of such a development would be substantial.



Yakov Faitelson is the author of Demographic Trends in the Land of Israel, 1800-2007 (Israeli Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS), 2008).

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.



[1] "Address by PM Ehud Olmert to the opening of the Knesset winter session," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oct. 8, 2007.
[2] The New York Times, Dec. 1, 2008.
[3] The International Herald Tribune (Paris), Feb. 9, 2008; Associated Press, Feb. 9, 2008; "Zionists Have Lost the War, Israel's Defeated in the Demographic Battle: An Interview with Dr. Yousef Ibrahim," The International Press Center (Palestinian territories), Feb. 14, 2005.
[4] BBC News, Nov. 29, 2007.
[5] Shimon Dubnow, Pisma o Starom i Novom Evreistve (1897-1907) (St. Petersburg: Obshchestvennaia pol'za, 1907), pp. 171-2.
[6] Robero Bachi, Maskanot politiot metoch hakirotaj al hahitpathut hademografit shel ha'yehudim veha'arvim be'Eretz-Israel (Jerusalem: Hadasa, 1944).
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid, Table no. 1, p. 2.
[9] Ibid., Table no. 3, p. 5.
[10] "Population Estimates and Sources of Its Growth," Israel Central Bureau of Statistics Yearbook for Israel 1996, no. 47, Table 27.01, p. 573; "The Population by Religion and Population Group," Israel Central Bureau of Statistics Yearbook for Israel 2006, no. 57, Table 02.01, p. 85.
[11] Roberto Bachi, Encyclopedia Ha'Ivrit, Ha'Ukhlusiya, vol. 6, 1956 ed., s.v. "a. demografia," p. 672.
[12] Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 9, s.v. "state of Israel, population," p. 472-93.
[13] Ibid.
[14] "Tahazit Ha'Ukhlusiya beIsrael ad 1985 (al basis sof 1965)," Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, Jerusalem, 1968, Table 2, p. 2, Table 10, p. 10, Table 11, p. 11.
[15] Yedi'ot Aharonot (Tel Aviv), July 6, 1987.
[16] The New York Times, Oct. 19, 1987.
[17] Yedi'ot Aharonot (Tel Aviv), July 6, 1987.
[18] The Jerusalem Post, Aug. 16, 1988.
[19] Fred M. Gottheil, "The Smoking Gun: Arab Immigration into Palestine, 1922-1931," Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2003, pp. 53-64.
[20] Justin McCarthy, "Palestine's Population during the Ottoman and the British Mandate Periods, Total Population: The Quality of the Data,", Sept. 8, 2001, accessed Sept. 18, 2008.
[21] "Census Final Results—Summary (Population, Housing Units, Buildings and Establishments)," Population, Housing, and Establishment Census – 1997 (Ramallah: Palestine National Authority, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 1998), "Table 1: Population by Sex and Governorate."
[22] McCarthy, "Palestine's Population."
[23] "2. Usual resident population count," Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 2, Statistical Papers Series (New York: U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Division, 2008), ST/ESA/STAT/SER.M/67/Rev.2., sec. 2.31, p. 115.
[24] "Population Estimates and Sources of Growth," Israel Central Bureau of Statistics Yearbook 1996, no. 47 (Jerusalem: ICBS, 2006), Table 27.01, p. 573.
[25] "Demographic Profile, Medium Variant, 1950-2050: Growth Rate," World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision Population Database, United Nations, Population Division, New York, accessed Sept. 18, 2008.
[26] Yakov Faitelson, "Mispar sheelot benose haba'aya hademographit," Dec. 8, 2003.
[27] McCarthy, "Palestine's Population: Palestinians in the World."
[28] Hagai Segal, "The Demono-Graphic Problem: The Faitelson Riddle,'" BeSheva, Jan. 22, 2004.
[29] Bennett Zimmerman, Roberta Seid, and Michael L. Wise, "The Million Person Gap: A Critical Look at Palestinian Demography: Arab Population in the West Bank and Gaza," BESA Perspectives, no. 15, May 1, 2006; idem, "The 1.5 Million Population Gap," presentation at American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C., Jan. 10, 2005.
[30] "Population 2005," Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health, Feb. 17, 2008; Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health Annual Report 2005, MOH-PHIC. Population and Demography. Health Status in Palestine 2005, Chapter 1, Demography and Population, Oct. 2006. All Palestinian Authority demographic and health annual reports from 2001 until November 2007 have been removed from the Palestinian Authority site after publication of comparisons by the author and by Bennet Zimmerman showing the differences between the data presented by the PCBS and the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health.
[31] "Table 1: Estimated Palestinian Population in the World by Reside [sic] Country, End Year 2006," Palestinians at the End of the Year 2006 (Ramallah: Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 2006), p. 31.
[32] "Population and Demography: Health Status in Palestine 2005," Annual Report 2005 (Ramallah: Ministry of Health-Palestinian Health Information Centre, Oct. 2006), p. 4.
[33] "Israel Defeated in the Demographic Battle: An Interview with Dr. Yousef Ibrahim," The International Press Center, Feb. 14, 2005.
[34] Ibid.
[35] Benjamin Schwartz, "Will Israel Live to be 100?" The Atlantic, May 2005.
[36] "1. Demography, 1-1 Projection of Palestinians worldwide," Demographic and Socioeconomic Status of the Palestinian People at the End of 2006 (Ramallah: Palestinian National Authority, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Dec. 2006), p. 3.
[37] The International Herald Tribune, Feb. 9, 2008; Associated Press, Feb. 9, 2008.
[38] The International Herald Tribune, Feb. 9, 2008; Associated Press, Feb. 9, 2008.
[39] Associated Press, Feb. 9, 2008;, Feb. 9, 2008.
[40] The New York Times, Dec. 11, 1997.
[41] Arutz Sheva (Beit El and Petah Tikva), May 17, 2008.
[42] Roberto Bachi, quoted in Ezra Zohar, "Demographiasakana kiyumit o mitus?" Nativ, Nov. 2004.
[43] "The Elements of the Conflict: A. Geographic and Demographic Factors, Population, (c) Future Trends," Official Records of the Second Session of the General Assembly, Supplement No. 11, Report to the General Assembly (Lake Success, N.Y.: U.N. Special Committee on Palestine, 1947), vol. 1, chap. II, p. 14.
[44] Roberto Bachi, "Tahazit Ha'Ukhlusiya be Israel (al basis sof 1965)," Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, Jerusalem, 1968, pp. 2, 10-11.
[45] Pinkhas Sapir, quoted in Shmuel Fridman, "Al demographia ve kzavim," Ma'ariv (Tel Aviv), July 7, 1987.
[46] Yedi'ot Aharonot, July 6, 1987.
[47] DellaPergola, Tah Ofek seminar, July 19, 2008.
[48] The Globe and Mail (Toronto), Nov. 20, 2006.
[49] Palestinian Media Watch, Aug. 14, 2008.
[50] (Arutz Sheva, Beit El and Petah Tikva), Oct. 5, 2007.
[51] Ma'ariv, June 11, 2007.
[52] Gottheil, "Arab Immigration into Palestine;" McCarthy, "Palestine's Population: Migration After 1948;" Janet Abu-Lughod, "The Demographic War for Palestine," The Link (Americans for Middle East Understanding), Dec. 1986; The Globe and Mail, Nov. 20, 2006
[53] Arutz Sheva, July 2, 2007.