JERUSALEM — The Palestinian statistics bureau estimates that Arabs will outnumber Jews in the Holy Land by the end of the decade, a scenario that could have grave implications for both Israel and the Palestinians.
The bureau said Tuesday that 5.8 million Arabs live in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem. That compares to about 6 million Israeli Jews, according to Israeli data.
It said that based on current birth rates, the two populations would be equal in 2016, and in 2020, Arabs would outnumber Jews by 7.2 million to 6.9 million.
The demographic issue is a main argument for Israeli backers of creation of a Palestinian state.
They say relinquishing control of the Palestinian territories and its residents is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a democracy with a Jewish majority.
A Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official says the latest projections could not only be problematic for Israel, but also for the Palestinians.
“This projection could lead to a demographic crisis which could jeopardize the two-state solution and lead to a de-facto one-state solution,” the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi told the Israeli website Ynet.
“This solution will not be convenient both for the Israelis and the Palestinians,” she said. “If things go on this way, we will eventually be the majority but we are giving Israel the chance to realize that the Palestinians can have a democratic state alongside it.”
Ashrawi estimated that the Israeli leadership is aware of the “demographic problem” but feels it can do whatever it wants on the ground without being held accountable for it.
“The Israeli government better understand that we’re not going anywhere and that it will have to accept the principle of a Palestinian state,” she said.