The latest trend among Israel’s ideological right is to call for the annexation of the West Bank. Some, like Minister Naftali Benett, talk about partial annexation (of only Area C). Others, like MK Tzipi Hotovely, discuss full annexation. In either case, it is clear that partial annexation is merely an intermediate step to annexing the entirety of the West Bank.
In order to support this bizarre stance, the leaders and spokespeople of the right enlists claims from any available corner and concoct statistics that will make it easier for the Israeli public to accept the notion. The key figure upon which they rely is the number of Palestinians who live in the West Bank (they simply ignore Gaza). The figure accepted by most of the research and policy community is the one provided by the Palestinian Authority Bureau of Statistics based on a population survey it conducted. According to that survey, some 2.8 million Palestinians live in the West Bank. The leaders of the Israeli right, however, consistently place the number much lower—at 1.5 million (see, for example, Bennett, Hotovely, Arens, Elitzur)
Where did this number come from?
The source of this number is a single study that stands not only in opposition to the Palestinian statistics, but also in opposition to the estimates of nearly every demographer in Israel. The research was conducted by a team of experts funded by the right-wing Heritage Foundation in cooperation with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and was headed by the rightist former diplomat, Yoram Ettinger. This study has already warranted a great deal of harsh criticism from a variety of professionals (for example, here).
Now, a document obtained by Molad shows that none other than the IDF rejects the right’s 1.5 million figure. The Civil Administration, the body responsible for managing civil life in the West Bank and naturally in a position to best estimate Palestinian demography, accepts the Palestinian estimate. The document states that as of May 2012, Palestinians living in the West Bank numbered 2,657,029. Accordingly, the number upon which the vanguard of right annexationists bases its claims is false — not only according to academic and international organizations, but also by Israel’s military.
Sadly, this does not prevent the right from promoting its baseless agenda. The discussion over the future of the Occupied Palestinian Territories is important enough that we should hold it on the basis of credible facts and accurate figures. The role of leaders is to speak the truth. The “facts” upon which the right has based its strategy are unfounded, and constantly restating them does nothing more than throw sand in the eyes of the public. Those on the right forget that repeating a lie enough times does not make it true. Annexing the territories means one thing: a bi-national state. One can support it or oppose it, but no one can deny it.
Click here for the Haaretz article on the Civil Administration document.