How many Palestinians live in the West Bank? Don’t ask the IDF

The Civil Administration tells Knesset committee that Israel doesn’t have exact figures for the number of Palestinians living in the West Bank.

June 8, 2016 06:45
2 minute read.
A Palestinian man hangs a Palestinian flag atop the ruins of a mosque

A Palestinian man hangs a Palestinian flag atop the ruins of a mosque, during a snow storm in West Bank village of Mufagara. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Israel doesn’t have exact figures for the number of Palestinians living in the West Bank, the Civil Administration told a Knesset committee on Tuesday, even though such information lies at the heart of any final status arrangement for a two-state solution.

His words shocked both right- and left-wing members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s sub group on Judea and Samaria.

Lt.-Col. Eyal Ze’evi, of the Civil Administration, did his best to answer the politicians’ questions, as he read from a paper document, explaining that he had not created a power point presentation.

The Civil Administration relies heavily on data from the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, which as of April 2016 has 2.9 million Palestinians listed as living in all of the West Bank, not including east Jerusalem, he said. The bulk of those Palestinians live in Areas A and B of the West Bank, which is under the civil control of the Palestinian Authority.

“Israel knows how many tanks the Syrian army has and how many missiles are in Hezbollah’s hands, but it can’t count how many Palestinians live under its rule in Judea and Samaria?,” MK Hilik Bar (Zionist Union) asked.

Right-wing Israeli politicians in the past, have estimated that some 300,000 Palestinians live in Area C of the West Bank, which is under the civil control of the IDF.

Zeevi said he also lacked exact data for Area C, which prompted committee head MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) to ask: “But isn’t the Civil Administration directly responsible for those Palestinians? Why haven’t we surveyed the population?” Yogev called the situation “unacceptable,” and said such information is critical for the basic planning of civilian life, including educational institutions and master plans for growth.

Such information is also “the basis for every cabinet decision, for every diplomatic decision,” Yogev said.

Bar was much more blunt, however, calling the absence of information a “serious failure that threatens the future of Israel and the Zionist enterprise,” since “the Palestinians have already declared that demographics is their central weapon in their battle against Israel.”

After the meeting, he said the situation, “was both embarrassing and alarming.”

Yogev, meanwhile, asked the Civil Administration to return in two weeks time with a comprehensive presentation of the data known to them, adding that a complete population survey must be done

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