Here's an earthshaking fact: Now that Israel has pulled out of Gaza, there is a clear, firm Jewish majority in the territory west of the Jordan River. 67 percent, in fact.
In contrast to popular notion, this majority is assured to continue well into the future, in light of a shrinking Arab population in Judea and Samaria (1. 8 percent), a rising Jewish population in Israel (2.1 percent), large scale Arab emigration since 1950 and Jewish aliya (immigration to Israel) that began in 1882.
Hamas' victory will spur on Arab emigration (especially amongst PA employees and their families), and growing anti-Semitism in France and the former Soviet Union will spur aliya (Jewish immigration).
Israel's demographic establishment is based on predictions released by the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics in 1997, according to which there are currently 2.4 million Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria. In reality, there are 1.4 million.
The Bureau claimed there would be a population explosion of some 170 percent in the 14 years between 1990-2004, from 1.5 million people according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics to 3.8 million according to the Palestinians, but not one demographer agreed.
How does one come up a million short? A new American-Israeli study presented at last month's Herzliya Conference by California researcher Bennet Zimmerman proves that the Palestinian predictions bore no semblance to the facts on the ground. For example:
• 325,000 Palestinians who reside abroad are counted in the 1997 statistics, according to the head of the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, February 26, 1998. This is similar to counting the 800,000 Israelis who live in the United States.
• 210,000 Jerusalem Arabs are counted twice – as "green line" Arabs and West Bank residents.
• 300,000 births never actually happened, as we see if we compare the Palestinian's 1997 prediction with subsequent birth records kept by the Palestinian health and education authorities.
• 236,000 Palestinians (total) were supposed to have moved to PA territory between 1997-2003 according to the Palestinian Bureau, but just 74,000 left the PA during that (310,000 difference).
• 105,000 Palestinians received blue Israeli identity cards in 1997, and they continue to be counted twice.
The Palestinian Election Committee says there are 760,000 eligible voters in Judea and Samaria, which points to 1.4 (not 2.4) million total residents. In other words, the ministries of health and education have documented a 70 percent exaggeration in the bureau of statistics prediction that forms the basis for Israel's demographic assessment.
How did a million Palestinians "disappear"?
Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt, the Washington-based demography expert that appeared at the Herzliya Conference, praised the study: "The conclusions are logical and overwhelmingly convincing. This study caught the demographers sleeping on guard duty," he said.
And so, the demographic establishment ignores the quick drop in natural growth in the third world, the Muslim world (1.9 children per woman in Iran), and the Arab world (2.9 children per woman in Egypt).
The establishment is unaware of reports by the Palestinian health ministry about developments that have led to a drop in natural replacement rates amongst Palestinians: The introduction of family planning (52 percent of married women use birth control), a rising median age of marrying couples and divorce rates, better education, higher awareness of women's careers and the drastic move from villages to cities.
Minimizing Jewish growth
The demographic establishment leans – and has done so since 1948 – to minimize Jewish natural growth and to exaggerate that of the Arabs, to dismiss the potential of Jewish immigration to Israel and to ignore Arab emigration from Israel.
For example, Jewish productivity over the last five years (2.7 children per woman) is higher than the highest scenario considered by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, whereas the Arab numbers (4 children) approaches the lowest scenario.
According to UNRWA, Arab productivity in the West Bank has plummeted, from 5.4 children per woman to 3.24.
In the 1980s Prof. Della Pergola erred in estimating the number of Jews in the Soviet Union (50 percent) and claimed there was no chance for massive aliya from there.
Today he uses the Palestinian bureau's numbers (minus Jerusalem Arabs) as a source for his estimates (American Jewish Congress yearbook, 2003). If he used the Israeli numbers (2.1 million in 1997), it would have been mathematically impossible to have reached 3.4 million in 2004, as he claims.
Prof. Arnon Sofer claimed in April, 2004 that there were 2.8 million Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. By October 2004 that number had risen to 3.8 million, but in November the number was back to 2.8 million.
In May, 2005, at a debate at Haifa University, he moved from 3.4 million to 3 million, and in a Ynetnews article
on January 24 the number was back up to 3.7 million.
And so it turns out that the demographic knife is not really hanging over our heads. In 1900 Jews constituted just eight percent of the population west of the Jordan, in 1948 it was 48 percent, and today we are 60 percent. Without Gaza, the Jewish majority is stable at 67 percent within the "green line", Judea and Samaria.
Only Palestinian immigration to the West Bank – and from there over the "green line" – will upset the demographic scales. Fateful policy decisions must be based on facts, not on statistics provided by the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, and certainly not on superficial assumptions about demography that bear no relation to reality.
Yoram Ettinger is a regular contributor to Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth