The number of Palestinians living within the West Bank has long been an object of controversy, with some Israeli right-wing politicians claiming that the official numbers cited by the Palestinian Authority and United Nations agencies have been inflated.
For the first time in years, however, an official Israeli figure has been published that agrees with the Palestinian calculation. According to documents of the Defence Ministry’s Civil Administration, published in Haaretz last week, in Judea and Samaria in May 2012, 2.7 million Palestinians lived in the West Bank, 29 per cent more than in 2000.
This number would indicate that the Palestinians living between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean, including those in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israeli-Arabs, is rapidly reaching parity with the number of Jews.
These figures fly in the face of findings by a team of researchers headed by former Israeli diplomat Yoram Etinger, whose published statistics indicate that there are only about 1.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and that the birth-rate there has declined.
The real argument is over whether Israel can consider in the future annexing the West Bank and absorbing the local population without jeopardising its Jewish majority.