Tuesday, July 30, 2013

'How Many?' Is A Good Question

In Foreign Policy Magazine:-

The Unsettled Question: Does anyone have the slightest idea how many Jews are in the West Bank?

...getting the facts turns out to be as great a challenge as settling on the best policy. There is no agreement on population growth rates in the settlements, nor on how many Israelis live outside the "major blocs." The ambiguity around this important question has allowed interested parties to fill in the blanks with answers that best suit their political narrative.

The numbers given by the Palestinian Authority, which show linear population growth over the past decade, reported that there were a staggering 544,000 Israeli settlers in 2012, which is 9 percent of Israel's Jewish population. Those figures, however, do not distinguish between Israelis who live east of the security fence and those who live in Jerusalem or in the major blocs that at Camp David, in the Annapolis peace summit, and in every proposed peace plan end up as part of Israel.

The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics would be the natural place to look for such figures, but as there is no single agreed definition of what constitutes a "bloc," its official number of 325,000 Israelis now living in the "Judea and Samaria region" provides only partial information. Like the Palestinian Authority's figures, the bureau's numbers do not tell us how many Israelis live in the large blocs that Israel is likely to keep, nor how many live in the areas of the West Bank that are expected to become part of the new state of Palestine.

In a New York Times op-ed last year, settler leader Dani Dayan cited 160,000 Jews living in "communities outside the settlement blocs that proponents of the two-state solution believe could be easily incorporated into Israel." Meanwhile, Peace Now's official Facebook page speaks of 70,000 citizens who would have to relocate if an agreement were finally found.

Of course, current population totals may reflect longer-term rather than recent trends. Our main goal was to see what's happening right now: Are those towns beyond the security fence still growing? The oft-repeated argument that "the window for peace is closing" depends largely on the belief that the settlements beyond the fence are expanding, meaning the number of Israelis who may resist a final agreement is presumably growing as well.
...According to electoral data, there has been significant recent growth all throughout the West Bank -- on both sides of the fence. More specifically, the number of Israelis over the age of 18 (eligible voters) who live beyond the Green Line and outside the settlement blocs has increased by 17 percent during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's current term in office.

And do I know?


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