An equal number of Jews and Muslims live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, according to fresh statistics presented Monday morning to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
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. Uri Mandes.
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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 ICA, 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 chaired the committee meeting, expressed his skepticism at the veracity of the the figures, and requested from the Defense Ministry the official documents on population numbers.
“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 at the conclusion of the meeting.
During the discussion, Deputy Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Guy Goldstein presented facts regarding the ICA, underscoring the significant cuts its has undergone over the last few years.
“The Civil Administration throughout the years has been steadily reducing resources in order to carry out its tasks. After the Oslo Accords, there was also a reduction in the budget and in manpower. There is a creeping decrease in manpower. The budget underwent a reduction of tens of millions,” he said.
According to Goldstein, after the Oslo Accords, the budget for the Civil Administration stood at NIS 286 million and has since plummeted to its current NIS 170 million financial reserve.
Regarding the Palestinian population in the West Bank, he said that it had leapt from a million to three million, whereas the Jewish population there had experienced a fourfold jump from 100,000 to 400,000.
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.
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) responded to the revelations on her Twitter account, using the figures to attack the notion of annexing the West Bank, a policy advocated by some on Israel’s Right flank.
“If we don’t wake up from the delusions of annexation, we will lose the Jewish majority. It’s that simple,” she wrote.
Responding to Livni, MK Yehudah Glick (Likud) ridiculed the figures, rejecting them has unrealistic and delusional.
“To build a theory based these facts is akin to believing that the Oslo Accords will bring about peace, or that (Shimon) Peres is still leading in the polls or that the Zionist Union camp headed by Isaac Herzog is going to establish a government,” Glick wrote.
“These are beliefs that, regrettably for you, are time and again slapped in the face by reality,” he added.
Committee member MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) insisted that the figures were inaccurate and slammed COGAT for failing to carry out its duties on compiling demographic data, instead basing its conclusions on Palestinian sources.
“COGAT has not carried out its responsibility to count and know how many Palestinians there are in Judea and Samaria or in Area C and it is counting solely on reports by the Palestinian Authority (PA),” he said.
“The PA lies and also counts 317,000 residents of eastern Jerusalem. The PA also does not report on fatalities and thus a document was presented to the committee saying that in the last decade, the number of Palestinians born in Judea and Samaria was ten times the number of those who died,” he continued in disbelief.
By Moran Azulay and Elior Levy, Ynet News