Dan Ephron, Newsweek’s Israel Bureau Chief, Aug. 17, 2010:
“The two-state solution rests on the idea that the Palestinian population is growing as the Jewish population shrinks. But what if that weren’t true?”
” The main purveyor of this new math is Yoram Ettinger, a retired diplomat and a staunch believer in Israel’s right to all of Judea and Samaria, the biblical term for the West Bank. Ettinger is not a demographer by training; he holds degrees in business administration and accounting. But he spent the past several years poring over data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and other sources, and he discovered what he says are miscalculations in (among other things) the Palestinian birthrate and migration figures (officials at the PCBS did not respond to a request for comment). He concludes that Israel could maintain a long-term Jewish majority of 67 percent if it annexed the West Bank, compared with the traditional projection of parity between Jews and Arabs within a few years of annexation. That means the occupation, in his view, may never have to end.
Israel’s leading demographers dispute much of Ettingers analysis; we’ll get to them in a moment. But it’s worth examining his assertions, if only to understand how some Greater Israel proponents envision melding three constructs that to most observers are so obviously incompatible: annexing the West Bank, maintaining Israel’s Jewish character, and preserving its democratic system of government.
I met Ettinger in the lobby of a Jerusalem hotel, where for about two hours he showed me a power-point presentation on his laptop computer. He has been showcasing his data since 2006 to just about anyone willing to listen, including academics, lawmakers, and, earlier this year, Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not made time for him, Ettinger says the prime minister’s staff saw the data and was impressed. Uzi Arad, Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser, has twice in the past four years invited Ettinger to present his findings at the Herzliya Conference, which is one of the most prestigious gatherings in Israel of thinkers and policymakersâ€”and which Arad chairs.
Ettinger makes three broad points: that Palestinians have substantially inflated their numbers in the West Bank by, for example, continuing to count people long after they’ve taken up residence abroad; that the Palestinian fertility rate both in the West Bank and in Israel has been declining faster than projected; and that Jewish births have grown significantly over the past 15 years, thanks mainly to the large influx of immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union (but also as a result of a moderately rising Jewish fertility rate). “The demographic trend is Jewish,” Ettinger concludes. “Anyone claiming that Israel must concede geography in order to secure demography is either mistaken or misleading.”