Palestinians will outnumber Jews between the river and the sea by 2020, PA report says

Ramallah official warns the numbers will end the possibility for a two-state solution

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Illustrative photo of a premature baby at a hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a premature baby at a hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

There will be an equal number of Palestinians and Jews in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip by 2016 and by 2020 Jews will be a minority in the area, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday.

Such a situation would end the chances for a two-state solution, former Palestinian Authority official Hanan Ashrawi said, implying that Palestinians would not be interested in just the West Bank and Gaza if they could demographically dominate a binational state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.

At the end of 2012, there were 11.6 million Palestinians around the world, the report said, including 4.4 million in the Palestinian Authority and 1.4 million who were Israeli citizens. More than 36 percent of the Israeli Arabs were under the age of 15, it found.

The fertility rate within the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been on the decline over recent years, the bureau reported. From an average of six children per family in 1997, the number dropped to 4.4 in 2008. As a result, the average household got smaller — from 6.4 to 5.6 in the PA.

The vast majority of the rest of the Palestinians were living in other Arab countries in the region, compared to only 655,000 who lived in non-Arab countries around the world.

Recent numbers released by the Central Bureau of Statistics in Jerusalem showed Israel’s population at just below 8 million, with 6,015,000 of those Jewish. The country’s growth rate is 1.8 percent, while it is 2.4% among Arabs.

If the predictions are true, it would cause “a demographic problem that would endanger the two-state solution and lead both sides, de facto, to a one-state solution,” Ashrawi told Ynet. One state would be uncomfortable for Israelis and Palestinians, the former PA legislator said.

“If the situation carries on this way, at the end we’ll be a majority, but we’re giving the Israelis a chance to understand the Palestinians could have their own democratic country that would neighbor Israel,” Ashrawi said.

The reason the Israelis weren’t actively pursuing a two-state solution was because they could do “as they wished” in the field without anyone stopping them, Ashrawi — a former negotiator — told the Hebrew news site.

Jerusalem believes it can go on like this forever, she said. “The Israeli government needs to internalize that we’re not going to disappear and that it’ll have to accept the idea of a Palestinian state.”

Some Israeli scholars question official Palestinian population statistics, claiming the Palestinians inflate the numbers.

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