PA Stats Bureau: Population Increased by One-third Over Last Decade

East Jerusalem has 208,000 Palestinian residents and not 256,000 as previously thought, the director of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics told Haaretz yesterday. Dr. Louis Shabaneh spoke after presenting the initial results of the Palestinian census for 2007, which showed a Palestinian population of 3.76 million, up from 2.89 million a decade ago.

At a press conference in Ramallah, Shabaneh said the figures were based on an actual census, not partial estimates such as the ones used to compile the previous census in 1997. This time, census takers went from house to house. This was "a national achievement for the Palestinians" that represented "Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem," he said.

The census volunteers conducted an actual count, working discretely to avoid confrontations with Israeli authorities, Shabaneh said.

But Hatem Abdel Kader, an adviser on Jerusalem affairs to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, said he didn't consider the Jerusalem figures reliable. "We doubt these numbers," he said, adding that he believes many Jerusalem homes were not visited by census takers.

Initial results from the census show that there are currently 3,761,646 people living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel conquered in the 1967 Six-Day War. Out of that total, 2,345,107 people live in the West Bank, and 1,416,539 in Gaza.

This compares with the number of around 2.89 million of 1997. In the past decade, the Palestinian population has increased by 39 percent in the Gaza Strip and 30 percent in the West Bank.

According to the figures, the population in East Jerusalem has increased by 10 percent, although this number may not be correct because the previous census did not rely on accurate figures.

In contrast to certain assessments, the census did not indicate a trend of immigration from the areas on the western side of Israel's security barrier to the eastern side. Some observers had thought there would be an immigration because the fence hinders the daily lives of Palestinians on the western side.

In early December, some 6,200 census takers fanned out across the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, going door to door to collect information from the Palestinian population, which has one of the highest birth rates in the world.

At the news conference, Shabaneh said that Palestinian population growth remains high, but has leveled off somewhat. Pre-census projections had predicted a population of 3.9 million.