MK Ahmad Tibi: Vision of Arab PM in Israel is drawing near
'Those who eliminated the two-state vision must decide: either one democratic state with equal rights to all, or an apartheid state,' Arab MK says in response to new statistics showing number of Jews and Muslims between river and sea is at or near parity; settler spokesman: 'The Palestinians have an interest in inflating the numbers.'
"The vision of an Arab prime minister, which now looks like a delusional idea, is drawing near. And then this will be an equal and democratic country, and not a Jewish and democratic one," Tibi said.
He described the Israeli reality as one of "apartheid being maintained by military rule," adding that "those who eliminated the two-state vision must decide: either one democratic state with equal rights to all, or an apartheid state."
Five million Palestinians live in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and in east Jerusalem, the data indicated—later discussed in detail by the Deputy Commander of the Israel Civil Administration (ICA)—which operates Israeli governance in the West Bank—Col. Haim Mendes.
According to 2016 figures from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), 6.44 million Jews live in Israel alongside 1.52 million Muslims.
In total, the demographic report concludes that 6.5 million Muslims live between the sea and the Jordan River.
The report, it should be noted, relies on figures provided by the Palestinian CBS, which is considered to be a relatively reliable source.
Figures that the latter agency presented at the end of 2014 concluded that there were 2.8 million Palestinians residing in the West Bank and 1.8 million in the Gaza Strip. At the time, the Palestinian CBS said that the number of Palestinians and Arab-Israelis combined, between the river and the sea, stood at 6.1 million and that the number is expected to increase to 7.1 million until 2020.
MK Avi Dichter (Likud), who chairs the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, expressed his skepticism at the veracity of the figures, and requested the official documents on population numbers from the Defense Ministry.
“I don’t remember the Palestinians presenting this kind of number. This is a completely new, significant and surprising fact. If it is accurate, it is surprising and concerning. If it isn't accurate, we obviously want to know what the accurate number is,” he said.
Mendes told the committee there are some 3 million Palestinians registered as residents of the West Bank.
"In reality, we estimate there is a population of 2.5-2.7 million Palestinians (in the West Bank), both because those deceased might still be listed and because of the immigration to other countries. For example, a Palestinian born in Brazil and living there his entire life may still be listed in the Palestinian population registry, and the Palestinians issue him a passport," Mendes said.
Dichter, however, remained circumspect about the statistics. “No demographic survey is able to show a threefold increase in population within 25 years. There is no way to go from a million to three million except by immigration. This kind of increase would be interesting for the Guinness Book of World Records,” he quipped.
Israeli settlers immediately disputed the population figures, citing one study that put the number of Palestinians in the West Bank at 1.8 million.
"The slanted publication about Arab demography in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley relies on data from the Palestinian statistics bureau which are not true or accurate. They (Palestinians) have an interest in inflating the numbers," settler spokesman Yigal Dilmoni said.
Ofer Shelah, a committee member from the opposition centrist Yesh Atid party, said it is clear the Jewish majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean is "precarious".
"From a demographic perspective, if Israel does not part with the Palestinians then there is real danger to realizing the Zionist dream of a Jewish and democratic Israel," Shelah told Reuters.
Sergio DellaPergola, a demographer and professor emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said one state taking in two nations was not viable.
"The answer is separation, the answer is manifestly separation. Two countries for two people, which of course has to be negotiated," said DellaPergola.
Underlying political dynamics, he said, are more important than exact population percentages.
Reuters contributed to this story.