A Palestinian census published Monday claims that Palestinians living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza will outnumber Jews in the same area by 2016.
The census, taken by Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, cited the number of Palestinians in the area at 6.08 million, compared to 6.10 million Jews.
The census, carried by the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, predicted that by the end of 2016 both groups will number 6.42 million people. By 2020, according to PCBS, Palestinians will number 7.14 million with Jews only making up 6.87 million of the population.
The numbers highlighted what Israeli Jews call the “demographic threat” posed by continuing to hold on to the West Bank, with the possibility of the country having to choose between being democratic or Jewish. However, it is not the first time the PCBS, which counts Arab citizens of Israel as Palestinians, has predicted population parity between the groups around the corner.
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of Jews in Israel at the end of 2014 stands at 6.218 million, 118,000 people more than the number cited by the Palestinian census.
The PCBS said 1.46 million Palestinians live in Israel, “of whom about 35.4% are aged below 15 years compared to 4.3% aged 65 years and over.”
Here, too, Israel’s CBS cites a higher number, 1.719 million, though the discrepancy may be explained by both Israel and the PA counting East Jerusalem residents as their own.
According to data from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) for 2014, there are 2.754 million Palestinian in the West Bank and 1.73 million in Gaza. (The COGAT figures apparently do not include East Jerusalem Arabs.) With the CBS statistic of 1.713 million Arabs living in Israel (including East Jerusalemites), the total number of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs reaches 6.197 million, very close to the number of Jews living in Israel.
The PCBS has been predicting for more than a decade that the balance between the Palestinian and Jewish populations will tilt in favor of the Palestinians, pushing the date when this is likely to occur by a year or two with every end-of-year-report published.
In 2003, the PCBS predicted the two populations would reach parity by 2006. By 2010, the PCBS predicted the number of Palestinians would eclipse the number of Jews in 2014.
According to a study published by the Israel-based Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in 2006, Israel stopped counting the people living in the Palestinian territories when, as part of the Oslo Accords in 1995, the Palestinian Authority started publishing its own statistics. Until then Israel’s CBS included data on the territories in its yearly reports.
The PCBS was established by the PA and published its first census in 1997. Since then, the PCBS has been publishing statistics on a regular basis, based on models predicting shifts in demographics including births, deaths and migration, though the Begin-Sadat study called into question the accuracy of the figures.
The study listed methods used by the PCBS to “inflate” the number of Palestinians, and concluded that its mid-2004 report, estimating the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza at 3.83 people, was off by 1.34 million. The study assessed the actual number of Palestinians at only 2.49 million, and thus the PCBS figure was exaggerated by more than 50 percent.
The Ma’an report published Monday night cited heavy immigration from the former Soviet Union to Israel in the 1990s as the main cause for delaying the date when the two populations reach parity and the Palestinian population starts overtaking the Jewish one.
Some 1 million Russian speakers reached Israel’s shores under the state’s Law of Return in a few years in the early 1990s, bolstering population figures.
Israeli demographers have also noted that with a gradual rise in the quality of life and better education, the birthrate of Palestinian women has been slowly but steadily declining.