Palestinian shepherd in Jordan Valley
Palestinian shepherd in Jordan ValleyReuters

The "demographic argument" is often used by those advocating for Israeli territorial concessions - namely, that the Arab population will surpass the number of Jews in Israel unless it withdraws from all or most of Judea an Samaria.

However, recent studies have cast doubts upon the Palestinian Authority's alleged population figures, which some experts claim have been massively inflated and which allegedly mask massive emigration figures.

At a special meeting Tuesday of the Knesset Subcommittee of Civil Affairs and Security in Judea and Samaria, initiated by Subcommittee Chairman MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), the head of the IDF's Civil Administration admitted he had no idea how many Arabs live in the region.

Lt. Col. Ayal Ze'evi told MKs he didn't have any firm statistics on the number of Palestinian Arabs living in Area C - the region of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli control, and where all Jewish communities in Judea-Samaria are located.

Furthermore, a representative of the Immigration and Population Authority admitted that his office has "no figures concerning the matter of emigration abroad from the Arabs of Judea and Samaria over the past decade."

The topic of emigration is a crucial one, given recent claims that the Arab population in Judea and Samaria is actually shrinking as many seek better employment opportunities outside the corrupt Palestinian Authority in the Gulf States and elsewhere.

MK Yogev explained that without establishing precise figures on the Palestinian Arab population it would be impossible "to adapt the infrastructure, for example, or the numbers of schools, to the appropriate numbers."

He noted that when he served as commander of the IDF's Efrai Brigade in Samaria, he was "responsible for (the Palestinian Authority-ruled cities) Kalkilya and Tulkarem, and we knew the precise number of residents."

"It took us nearly a year, but every week we surveyed the area until we came to a precise number," he recounted, vowing to ensure that following the meeting's dismal findings he would endeavor to work out the precise numbers of Jews and Arabs in Area C.

Lt. Col. Ze'evi said that the only figures he had were from the Palestinian Authority, whose Population Registry claims there are some 2.93 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria holding PA identity cards - i.e. excluding the Arab population of Jerusalem, who hold Israeli residency permits. But he noted the PA's figures were not at all transparent, and there is no way to independently verify their accuracy.

He also claimed that many Palestinian families register their children at the Population Registry and then leave the region, resulting in an inflated count.

Moreover, the PA's population figures have fluctuated wildly over the years, backing claims by critics that PA officials are inflating or even making their statistics up.

In contrast, a recent survey revealed how the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria continues to grow rapidly, defying US-imposed building freezes and waves of Arab terrorism.

Ze'evi did however record an interesting statistic regarding Palestinian emigration.

"Via the Allenby Bridge (into Jordan), there is a difference of 15,800 more going out than coming in," he said. Over the past 15 years, that adds up to a total of 175,000 more Palestinians leaving Judea and Samaria than entering. 

Demographer and former envoy to the US Yoram Ettinger noted at the hearing that those figures only include emigration via the Allenby Crossing, and do not, for example, count those Arabs who left the country via Ben Gurion Airport.

MK Hilik Bar (Zionist Union) praised the subcommittees efforts, and criticized past administrations for mismanaging the issue.

"How many people are in Syria we know, but civilians under our control we don't," he fired, backing Yogev's call for a concerted effort to rectify the issue and conduct an urgent census.