The recent announcements about the sudden death of the “demographic problem” are premature. Media has publicized a report by an American-Israeli team, none of whom is a professional demographer. The report suggests that the Palestinian population is closer to 2.4 million than to 3.8 million. The report concludes that, with a Jewish majority in the territories, there are no reasons to relinquish any parts of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The study deserves serious analysis.

Contrary to the assertions of the authors, no one in Israel is deceived by the number of 3.8 million Palestinians or forgets that the Arabs in Jerusalem are included there. In fact, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan there are 5.2 million Jews; 300,000 non-Jewish immigrants integrated to the mainly Israeli population; 1.3 million Israeli-Arabs; and 3.4 million Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza; that is, 51% of Jews and 3% of integrated non-Jews. If we look at the average Arab birth rate and we take into account a probable decrease of the fertility rate of Palestinian women, it is estimated that, by 2020, Jews and their non-Jewish relatives will be about 47% of the total of the population between the Jordan and the Mediterranean and by 2050 they might constitute 37%. This result does not take into account Arab immigration.

In their report, the authors systematically choose the lowest estimates of birth rates without explaining what factors make them more reliable than others. The figures they show can not be verified and are even based on inaccurate definitions. Our calculation of the Palestinians’ fertility rate is based on the birth rate of the Israeli-Arabs, constant for the last 20 years, and higher than the birth rate of the rest of the Arab world.

The authors of the report think that the Jewish majority will remain counting on a strong Jewish immigration in Israel while the reservoir that the Diaspora represents is exhausting and new immigration waves are unlikely.

Jerusalem Post (Israel)

Battle of the numbers: Jewish minority by 2020 ”, by Sergio Dellapergola, Jerusalem Post, May 17, 2005.