Jewish Population Report in West Bank Raises Critical Questions Regarding Two-State Paradigm
By Eliana Rudee
(JNS) According to a “West Bank Jewish Population Stats” report compiled by Yaakov “Ketzaleh” Katz,” former chairman of the National Union Party of Israel, the total number of Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is seeing a growth in all regions and towns.
According to their statistics, the total number of Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria is 435,159 residents, representing a 3.39 percent growth in 2017 and 21.4 percent growth in the last five years.
In 2017, the North Samaria Bloc saw the biggest growth of Jewish residents with a 7.79 percent growth over the last year and a 31.44 percent growth in the last five years.
The Eastern Etzion Bloc, which saw a 4.88 percent growth in 2017, has seen a 44 percent growth in the last five years.
Other regions, including Ariel Elkana (Highway 5) Block, Samaria Bloc, Binyamin Bloc, Jordan Valley Bloc, Etzion Bloc, Beitar Illit, Ma’aleh Adumim Bloc, Hevron Hills Bloc and the Kiryat Sefer Bloc have seen a growth of 2.76 percent, 5.04 percent, 2.58 percent, 3.93 percent, 3.05 percent, 4.88 percent, 5.33 percent, 0.81 percent and 2.44 percent in 2017, respectively.
Growth in the last five years has totaled 19.18 percent, 23.14 percent, 19.84 percent, 21.20 percent, 16.08 percent, 44 percent, 29.68 percent, 7.89 percent and 19.4 percent, respectively.
Based on the trends of the last five years, it is projected that the number of Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria will grow to 491,025 in 2020, 723,633 in 2030 and will surpass 1 million in 2039.
The study notes that these numbers do not take into account the some 315,000 Jewish residents of eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods liberated in the Six-Day War of June 1967 and which are technically part of the West Bank.
The report is a project of Bet El Institutions, of which Ketzaleh founded in 1977 in Israel’s Samaria region to take the spirit of Torah and the Land of Israel, and project it through its institutions such as the West Bank Jewish Population Stats and the Arutz Sheva news site, Israel Defense Forces Preparatory Academy in Bet El, Yeshiva.co, the Besheva weekly newspaper and BetElTours.com.
In support of these trends, Baruch Gordon, one of the producers of the report, told JNS: “The Hebrew nation, like any other nation, has the right to self-determination in the entirety of its homeland. The people of Israel are not Westerners. We are a Middle Eastern nation and natives to the Land of Israel.”
He continued, saying “there is no greater revolution in human history than the return of the Hebrew nation to its land. The Romans perpetrated crimes against us, and as a result, we suffered a long and difficult exile. But now we’re back to correct this historical injustice and reclaim our land.”
Gordon lamented that the left-right political debate in Israel has centered on two-state solution, with a Palestinian state in the West Bank alongside a Jewish one.
Indeed, the liberal advocacy group Peace Now—the largest and longest-standing Israeli movement advocating for peace through public pressure—maintains that the two-state solution is the only viable alternative to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even in light of settlement expansion.
Brian Reeves, director of development and external relations for Peace Now, told JNS, “While settlement expansion is one of the major obstacles for peace, [our group] and others accept that we have not entered the point of no return. If there is a political will, most of this can be undone, in terms of evacuating settlers and land swaps.”
In response to the West Bank Population Stat projections, Reeves said “if isolated settlements grow so big that Israelis can’t fathom taking civilians out, that becomes a problem” in terms of the viability of a two-state solution.
He noted, however, that Peace Now’s statistics slightly differ from those of Ketzaleh’s; they put the number of Jewish residents of the West Bank at closer to 400,000, rather than 435,159.
“We also agree that settlements are growing,” noted Reeves, “but we use the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, which comes out later but is more accurate, while they use the Interior Ministry’s statistics, which records people who left their parents homes but never changed their status of residence.”
Changing demographics and the two-state debate
But while statesmen and politically diverse nonprofits like Peace Now promote the two-state solution as the only resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the report maintained that after seeing these statistics based on Israel’s population registry, many have pronounced that paradigm dead.
Those who have come to the same conclusion include Iyad el-Baghdadi, born in Kuwait to a Palestinian, who wrote in The Washington Post, “I see the two-state solution as a noble experiment that failed.” He cited the Trump administration and expanding Israeli settlements as current reasons for its failure.
Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, agrees in a Time magazine article titled, “Let’s Talk About a One-State Solution.”
A Palestinian Center PSR Poll published on Jan. 25 revealed a drop in support for the two-state solution to below half for both Israeli Jews and Palestinians. From the poll summary: “Large portions on both sides believe that settlements have expanded so much that the two-state solution is no longer viable.”
Gordon added that Israeli “author and commentator A.B. Yehoshua, who promoted the two-state solution for decades, worded this best when he said that as an intellectual, he cannot ignore the reality on the ground and when taking into account the figures of Jewish growth, he must abandon the two-state solution and deem it ‘unrealistic’ and search for other alternatives.”
Instead of a two-state solution, Gordon suggests that “the mass return of our nation to embrace our ancient Hebrew towns necessitates a one-state solution under Israeli sovereignty. The only solution is for Israel to reclaim its land, take responsibility for all its citizens, and allow Jews and Arabs to live side by side in freedom and dignity.”