By: David Ha'ivri

Israelis and Jews around the world are rightly proud of our small country’s hard-punching intelligence services. Each month brings new revelations of operational triumphs, which burnish such legendary agencies as Mossad, or Army intelligence Unit 8200 into the nightmares of our enemies, while earning the admiration of our friends around the world.

Quietly liquidating a Hamas weapons trafficker in Dubai? No problem. Monitoring and arranging explosive accidents for Iranian arms convoys on their way through Africa? Piece of cake. Penetrating the most heavily guarded facilities in Iran to take pictures of German serial numbers on nuclear centrifuges? Been there, done that, and got the matching mug and t-shirt to prove it.

Great, then perhaps someone in the IDF, Shin Bet, Mossad, or Unit 8200 could tell me how many Palestinians there are in the West Bank. Determining this may not be as glamorous as cataloguing what Bashar Assad had for breakfast this morning by way of satellite imagery. Still, I would contend that knowing how many West Bank Palestinians we must contend with is considerably more important for the security and future of what Moshe Dayan referred to as the 3rd Temple – the State of Israel.

Actually getting a head count for West Bank Palestinians from the Government of Israel, or its many intelligence agencies, is exceedingly difficult. The Army will refer you to the Civil Administration, which will refer you to the Israeli government, which will refer you to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, which will refer you to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).

Of course, the PCBS, having for years grossly inflated Palestinian demographics as a political weapon in the Arab conflict with Israel, is an organization greatly lacking in credibility, to put it mildly. As Michael Rubin neatly summarized in Commentary, the PCBS “isn’t allowed to report Palestinian emigration, double-counts Jerusalem (which is also counted by Israel), and has made revisions at the request of the Palestinian leadership when the population in Jerusalem, for example, was found to have declined. The error today may exceed one million people throughout areas claimed by the Palestinian Authority.”

More importantly, if we wanted to ask the PCBS how many Palestinians there were, well, we’d ask them. What I’d like to know, is how it is possible for Israeli intelligence agencies, which can remotely hack Syrian air defense systems, to not know whether there are 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, as Palestinians claim, or more like 1.5 million, as asserted by reputable, independent studies.

By all accounts, official Israeli confusion on this question should be outright impossible. After all, Israel maintains an extensive paperwork regime in the West Bank, now helpfully managed by the Palestinians in coordination with the Civil Administration. Every Palestinian birth and death is noted in one database or another. Likewise, every eligible Palestinian is issued a Hawiyeh – a cross between a form of identification and an internal passport. Other metrics exist, including the number of Palestinian households connected to electricity, water or sanitation infrastructure. If nothing else, let’s simply count the residential and cellular phone numbers.

To put it bluntly, there is no shortage of ways to determine or estimate how many Palestinians there are in the West Bank. Yet, all official Israeli bodies, including those conducting diplomacy at the highest levels, refer only to Palestinian demographics as certified by the PCBS, fully cognizant that the bureau’s professional credentials are politically compromised, and for the express purpose of manipulating to the Palestinian benefit the very diplomacy Israel is engaged in.

Given what we know of the capabilities of Israeli intelligence agencies, thinking minds cannot accept that Israel does not, in fact, have its own, internal estimates of the number of Palestinians living in the West Bank. This number must certainly exist, but if so, it’s reasonable to ask why it isn’t being made public. Either Palestinian demographic data supplied by the PCBS matches internal Israeli estimates, or it doesn’t. If the Palestinians truly are in the range of 2.5-3 million residents in the West Bank, as they claim, this has important implications, not just for Israeli diplomacy, but for the future of more than half a million Israelis currently living in Judea and Samaria. Likewise, if Palestinian demographics are closer to the 1.5 million figure, as reputable critics allege, then this, too, has considerable repercussions for all parties.

The lack of official Israeli transparency on the question of Palestinian demographics has led to some unfortunate speculation on the potential motivations of Israeli officials in sequestering data vital to a healthy, democratic decision-making process from the public eye. Given that the official Israeli position parrots the Palestinian figures, without corroborating them using internal Israeli estimates, it is reasonable to suspect that actual Palestinian demographics are more favorable to Israel than we now believe. The time has come for the Israeli government to make internal estimates on Palestinian demographics available to its citizens. That way we, the people, and not unelected bureaucrats or unaccountable diplomats, can make responsible decisions about our country’s future.

David Ha’ivri is the director of the Shomron Liaison Office. He and his wife Mollie live in Kfar Tapuach, Shomron with their eight children. You can follow him on Twitter @haivri This article was received mar 15, 2012. Contact David Ha'Ivri by email at

Editor's Addendum:


Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, "Second Thought”

The steep decline in the Arab fertility rate west of the Jordan River – in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and pre-1967 Israel – reflects the demographic revolution throughout the Muslim world, especially in the Arab countries of the Middle East.

According to the 2011 CIA Factbook, the fertility in Iran, the most religious Shiite country, is 1.87 births per woman, in Saudi Arabia, the most religious Sunni country – 2.5, in the small Gulf States – 2.5, in North Africa – 2.5, in Syria – 3, in Egypt – 2.94, in Jordan – 3.4, in Iraq – 3.76, in Yemen – 4.81 and in Sudan – 4.93 births per woman.

In 1969, the Israeli Arab fertility rate (which is similar to the Judea and Samaria Arab fertility rate) was 6 births higher than the Jewish fertility rate. In 2012, the Arab-Jewish fertility gap plunged to 0.5 births. Moreover, the fertility rates of younger Arab and Jewish women have converged at 3 births per woman, while the average Israeli-born Jewish mothers already exceed 3 births per woman. Jewish fertility trends upward (particularly within the secular sector!), and Arab fertility trends downward, as a result of successful integration of Arabs – and especially Arab women - into the infrastructures of modernity.

The Jewish fertility rate in Israel is higher than any Arab countries, other than Sudan, Yemen, Iraq and Jordan, which are trending downward.

The triggers of the demographic revolution among Arabs west of the Jordan River are very similar to those which caused the overall Muslim/Arab demographic implosion: urbanization, expanded primary, secondary and tertiary education primarily among women, more assertive women at home and in the workforce, family planning, all-time high wedding and reproductive age, all-time low teen pregnancy, all-time high divorce rates and youthful emigration. In 2012, an increasing number of Arab women remain unmarried during their 20s.

Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt, a leading demographer at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in Foreign Policy Magazine, March 9, 2012: "Declines in the total fertility rate [in Muslim countries] have been jaw-dropping…. Throughout the global Muslim community, the average number of children per woman is falling dramatically. According to the UN Population Division, all Muslim-majority countries and territories witnessed fertility declines over the past three decades…. Algeria and Morocco have total fertility rates in the same ball park as Texas; Indonesia is almost identical to Arkansas; Tunisia looks like Illinois; Lebanon's fertility level is lower than New York's; Iran's is comparable to that of New England, the region in America with the lowest fertility…. A century of research has detailed the associations between fertility decline and socioeconomic modernization, as represented by income levels, educational attainment, urbanization, public health, treatment of women, and the like…. Current fertility levels seem to be the product of intangible factors (culture, values, personal hopes and expectations) and not just material and economic forces…. Where Muslim women want fewer children, they are increasingly finding ways to manage it – with the pill or without it…. The fertility decline over the past generation has been more rapid in the Arab states than virtually anywhere else on earth…. A new world is being born before our eye – and we would all do well to pay much closer attention to its significance.”

Demographic studies document that dramatic declines in fertility never bounce back to previous high levels.

While Arab demography is imploding, Israel's Jewish demography benefits from a tailwind – a 56% surge in the number of annual Jewish births between 1995 and 2011, compared to a 10% rise in the number of Arab births. In 1995, the Jewish births constituted 69% of total births, compared with 76% in 2011. In 1995, there were 2.34 Jewish births per one Arab birth, compared with 3.2 Jewish births per one Arab birth in 2011. Contrary to most of the world, Israel's Jewish population is growing younger (while Israel's Arab population is growing older) and educated, which bodes well for Israel's economic growth.

Jewish demography is further bolstered by Aliya (Jewish immigration), an unprecedented flow of returning expatriates, a relatively low number of emigrants and a substantial annual net-emigration of (mostly young) Arabs from Judea and Samaria -17,000 in each of the last three years.

A pro-active Aliya policy would leverage the global economic and political circumstances in the former USSR, France, England, Argentina and the USA. It could produce a wave of 500,000 Olim (Jewish immigrants) during the next ten years, catapulting the current 66% Jewish majority – in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel – to an 80% Jewish majority by 2035.

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, "Second Thought”

"Israel Hayom”, March 16, 2011

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