Monday, February 24, 2014

By 2035, Jewish population in Israel/Palestine is projected at 46%

A large amount of news, analysis and political rhetoric is disseminated daily about the current American-initiated Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. However, comparatively little attention — and, hence, insufficient understanding — is given to a critical aspect of the decades-old conflict: population growth. Differential rates of population growth are redefining the relative demographic standing of Arab-Israelis, Jewish-Israelis and Palestinians in the region, pointing to a challenging demographic future for the Jewish-Israeli majority and affecting key negotiating concerns, positions and strategies, including establishing borders, the status of settlements and the return of Palestinian refugees.

The tract of land at the center of the conflict — the former British Mandate of Palestine – is relatively small. The combined surface area of Israel and the State of Palestine (the Gaza Strip plus the West Bank) is about the size of Haiti and can be fit into Texas about 25 times. The relative proportions of this combined territory are 79 percent Israel and 21 percent Palestine territory (20 percent West Bank and 1 percent Gaza Strip).

The total number of people residing in this tract is also not large. Fewer than 13 million — numerically equivalent to 4 percent of the US population — live there. As is widely acknowledged, the central defining characteristic of this population is its religious affiliation. A brief look at the past provides insight into the demographic status and growth of the major religious groups in this troubled land.

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