Haredi man passes Arab woman near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem
Haredi man passes Arab woman near Damascus Gate in JerusalemFLASH90

The numbers of Arab residents of Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem have been consistently exaggerated, a former Israeli diplomat and demographer claims, arguing that the number of Arabs living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea has been inflated, with clear geo-political consequences for Israel.

Yoram Ettinger, a demographer, former diplomat, and expert on Middle East affairs, has long argued that the statistics frequently cited both in Israel and abroad regarding the demographic makeup of Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip, and eastern Jerusalem are wildly inaccurate, consistently over estimating the number of Arabs living west of the Jordan.

In an interview with Kan Thursday afternoon, Ettinger explained the discrepancies in the official census data, adding that the “demographic threat” feared by Israeli opponents of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria has been overblown, noting that Jewish birthrates have risen while Arab birthrates have plunged.

“It is amazing that the Israeli establishment and academic establishment echo the numbers being pushed by the Palestinians without any deeper examination,” Ettinger said.

While official statistics put the demographic split between Arabs and Jews at near parity in all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, including upwards of three million Arabs in Judea and Samaria and another 1.9 million in the Gaza Strip, Ettinger says the size of the Arab population has been intentionally exaggerated by Palestinian Authority demographers.

“The Palestinians claim that there are three million Arabs in their territory, there are really a million and a half, at the very most, in all of Judea and Samaria. There are another roughly two million Arabs inside the Green Line. On the other side, there are 7.3 million Jews, making the total population of the country as a whole about 68% Jews,” Ettinger said, if the Gaza Strip is not included.

Turnign to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Ettinger said the enclave “is no longer in the game and so it isn’t relevant, just in the same way you can say we’re excluding Jordan from the count. The area in dispute is Judea and Samaria.”

“Anyone who argues that 68% isn’t a decisive majority – I’ll explain it to them in two ways: One: We’re in the middle of the Zionist effort [to bring Jews to Israel]. In addition, 68% is a much bigger majority than we had during the First Zionist Congress, when we were a minority of 9%, or than the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, when we were 36%.”