"There is no demographic sword hovering over the head of Israel," said Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger in a March 23 interview at the Jewish Review.
Ettinger, who is a consultant on U.S.-Israel relations to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Commission and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said a group of Israelis and Americans has performed the first audit of Palestinian population figures and has found they are distorted more than a little.
As a member of the group, Ettinger said, "We decided to go back to the source and examine the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics figures."
To summarize the extensive report, which is available at www.pademographics.com, he said, "In 1990 the Israeli Bureau of Statistics declared there were 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, Judaea and Samaria. In 2000 the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics contended there were 3.2 million, which indicates 110 percent population growth in 10 years. Even if you double the highest birth rate in the world, in Bangladesh, you cannot get such population growth."
The commonly accepted population figure for this area as of 2004, according to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, is 3.8 million Palestinians, said Ettinger.
"We found that the 3.8 million is not an actual count but rather a projection made in 1997," he said. "This projection has been accepted in the minds of Israeli policymakers, World Bank, the CIA, and U.S. policy makers as an actual count."
Ettinger said the Palestinians have deliberately inflated their population figures to intimidate Israelis.
After referring to the "demographic sword," Ettinger advised, "There is no need to rush into any hasty decision or concession. Whether we disengage or do not disengage from Gaza, there is absolutely no impact on demography." Ettinger opposes the Israeli disengagement plan and views it as "retreat, appeasement of terrorism, rewarding terrorism and uprooting of Jews rather than a step toward peace or stability."
"The disinformation which has been spread is that if we pull out of Gaza, we won't need to keep so many soldiers there. It's absolutely not true," he said. When Israel disengaged from Gaza in 1994, he said, the action "required us to triple the number of Israeli soldiers around Gaza and triple the defense spending around Gaza."
Citing the "disengagement from southern Lebanon in July 2000," he continued, "As a result of this disengagement, we transformed Hezbollah, which was a small, hardly significant terrorist organization, into a major regional terror organization which is haunting Israel in Gaza and in Judea and Samaria, as well as American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do we want to learn from these mistakes, or do we want to repeat them?"
Ettinger was the former minister of congressional affairs to the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. He was also director of the Government Press Office in Jerusalem. He has been a private citizen since 1993.
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