Israel’s ability to remain a democracy has come under question following revelation that the Jewish and Palestinian population in historic Palestine is virtually the same.
Figures cited by Israel’s military-run civil administration COGAT, that coordinates government activities in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, show that there is now parity in the number of Jews and Palestinians.
Voice of America reported Colonel Uri Mendes, COGAT’s deputy director, warning Knesset members during a session of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of the parity between the populations. “We estimate the [Palestinian] population in Judea and Samaria at between 2.5 million and 2.7 million,” Mendes said using Israel’s term for the West Bank. He noted that a Palestinian census put the figure even higher, at three million.
Avi Dichter, the committee’s chairman and a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, according to VOI, tallied the figures with the two million Palestinians in Gaza and a further 1.84 million living inside Israel and reached a total of 6.5 million Palestinians living in Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories.
The figures have been met with concern within Israeli society. Afrnon Soffer, a demographer at Haifa University, asked: “Can you imagine that in addition to the ultra-orthodox poor people and the Muslim population poor people within Israel we will annex another five million poor people?”
“It’s to commit suicide,” he told VOI.
Palestinian member of the Knesset, Ahmed Tibi, reacted by saying that without a Palestinian state, Israel is heading towards a one-state solution that means Israel will have to choose between being a Jewish state and being a democracy.
Soffer described what many have said is Israel’s “demographic time-bomb”. “Annexing” the West Bank and Gaza will mean the “end of the Jewish state” and an “end to the Zionist dream”, Soffer pointed out. The alternative, he explained, was to deny Palestinians the right to vote which will be the end of Israeli democracy.