A new report presented to Israeli parliamentarians has found that despite decades of government attempts to ensure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem, Palestinians will make up the majority of the city's population within 20 years.
The report, issued by the Israeli Macro Center for Political Economics in partnership with the Washington-based Friedrich Ebert Foundation, found that the Palestinian population has grown from 25.5% of the city's population in 1967 to 35% today.
Through the annexation of territory and an extensive series of building, planning and municipal policies, Israel has made extensive efforts to ensure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem and prevent the city's division since the 1967 war, when Israel captured East Jerusalem along with the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula.
"It has been Israeli policy to try to guarantee a Jewish majority and generate Jewish hegemony in Jerusalem since 1967," Dr. Roby Nathanson, Director of Israel's Macro Center for Political Economics and editor of the report, told The Media Line. "Israel has annexed huge parts of Jerusalem, enlarged the boundaries of the municipality, taken lots of land in the eastern part of the city and built more than 50,000 housing units on this land exclusively for Jews."
"Yet despite all these policies, it has not changed the demographic balance of the city," Dr. Nathanson said. "Indeed the number of Palestinians living in the city has grown constantly and Palestinians will soon make up the majority of the residents in Jerusalem."
The report claims that since 1967 Israel has expropriated almost 20,000 acres of land, mostly from Palestinian owners, making up 35% of East Jerusalem. The report found that around 50,000 housing units were built with government assistance on this expropriated land, in an effort to create Jewish neighborhoods including Har Homa, Gilo and Neve Yaakov. The report claims that only 600 housing units for Palestinians were built with government assistance during the same period, the most recent of which was built over 30 years ago.
Dr. Nathanson argued that against Israel's intentions, the separation barrier had increased the Palestinian presence in the city.
"Paradoxically, as a consequence of the fence, Israel had to include different neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city into the municipal boundaries, thus increasing the Palestinian population even more."
Dr. Nathanson said Israel was attempting the impossible.
"You cannot create a demographic majority artificially, and this is what the Israeli government is trying to do," he said. "You cannot force a solution - you cannot force the Palestinians to leave the city and you cannot force a million or so Jews to come settle in the city - you have to look at the reality and make the best out of it."
"You have the Palestinian side of the city and the Israeli side of the city," Dr. Nathanson added. "The city is not divided but there is a kind of a glass wall between both parts. It's invisible but it is there and everybody knows that."
The Macro Center for Political Economics creates weekly information sheets for members of the Knesset. Dr. Nathanson said the report was not intended as a political statement or 'wake-up call' to Israeli policymakers in Jerusalem.
"Our motive is simply to provide decision makers with information from people with expertise," he said. "In the end you have two populations and you have to figure out what to do in terms of housing for the growing Palestinian population in the city. If you just leave the situation as it is, it will be a very explosive situation."
"Values, ideology and political perspectives are important but whether you are on the right or the left you have to ask empirical questions," Danny Seidman, who authored the report, told The Media Line. "What we have are the following facts: in 1967 the Israeli population was 74% of the city, today it is 65%, and that is in spite of massive governmental efforts to accelerate the growth of the Israeli sector and to cap the growth of the Palestinian sector. We failed."
"All of the responsible demographic projections envisage a Palestinian majority in the city within a generation and if you look at the fabric of life we're already living in a bi-national city," Seidman added. "Even if you bring in a million Jews you can't change that... If during the surge of Israeli energies following the Six Day War we weren't able to change the facts we are certainly not going to be able to do this today."