RAMALLAH: The results of a 2022 census carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics will worry Israel’s leaders, according to a Palestinian political expert.
“Israelis are constantly concerned about Palestinian demographic superiority as they want control over the Palestinians … still, at the same time, they want a pure Jewish society,” Ghassan Al-Khatib told Arab News.
“The most important fact is that we are equal to the Jews in terms of demography,” he said.
The survey showed a high growth rate among Palestinians and that half of them were part of the diaspora living outside Palestine, he added.
The figures also indicate that Palestinian society is young, with more than a third of its population aged under 15.
Al-Khatib said Israel was unable to give up the West Bank for political reasons but also unable to annex it for demographic reasons, which constituted an embarrassment for Israel.
“There is a great contradiction between demographic aspects and democratic principles in Israel,” he said.
The survey shows that there are now about 14.3 million Palestinians around the world. Of those, 5.4 million are in the West Bank and Gaza Strip — an increase of 2.4 percent from the previous year — while 1.7 million are in Israel, 6.4 million in Arab countries and 761,000 elsewhere in the world.
It is expected that by the end of this year the number of Jews living in Israel and its settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem will be 7.1 million, or about the same number as there are Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip and Israel.
Israel, whose leaders reject the idea of Palestinians establishing an independent state, has always feared their becoming a majority.
A senior official at the statistics bureau, who asked not to be named, told Arab News that the survey’s key revelation was the demographic equality between the number of Jews living in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
“The most important fact is that we are equal to the Jews in terms of demography and the high growth rate of Palestinians, and that half of Palestinians live in the diaspora outside Palestine,” the person said.
The survey shows that children aged 14 or under account for 38 percent of the population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while those aged 65 years and above represent just 3 percent in Palestine, 4 percent in the West Bank and 3 percent in the Gaza Strip.
It also shows that the average size of a Palestinian family dropped to five members in 2021, from six in 2010.
The survey also highlights the growing problem of unemployment, especially among young graduates. In the Gaza Strip, 45 percent of people of working age are jobless, with the figure standing at 14 percent in the West Bank.
The unemployment rate is 21 percent among men and 39 percent among women.
The survey shows that Israeli authorities destroyed 1,058 buildings — 353 of them residential properties — in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2022, the largest proportion of which (29 percent) were in the Jerusalem governorate.
Israel, meanwhile, is building hundreds of settlement units. At the end of 2018, there were more than 700,000 settlers living in 151 settlements on Palestinian lands in the West Bank.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as of Monday, 224 Palestinians had been killed in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
According to the Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, there were 4,700 Palestinians in Israeli occupation prisons at the end of November, including 34 women and about 150 children.