The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) has released its annual report. It states that at the end of 2015, the estimated number of Palestinians in the world was 12.37 million, of whom 4.75 million live in the Palestinian territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip), 1.47 million in Israel, 5.46 million in Arab countries and around 685 thousand in foreign countries.
Of the 4.75 million in the territories, around 2.90 million reside in the West Bank and 1.85 million in Gaza Strip.
The PCBS estimates that the number of Arabs in historical Palestine will exceed the number of Jews within five years.
The number of Arabs in historical Palestine (between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, including Israel and the territories) totaled 6.22 million at the end of 2015. There were 6.22 million Jews at the end of 2014 according to estimates by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics and the number is expected to reach 6.34 million Jews by the end of 2015. The number of Arabs and Jews will be equal before the end of 2017. By the end of 2020, the number of Arabs in historical Palestine will total 7.13 million compared to 6.96 million Jews.
This information places us before an historic question of Jewish law. Suppose that a future Israeli government were to decide to solve its conflict with the Palestinians by annexing the territories and granting citizenship to all residents (the “one-state solution”). Would the fact that Jews would then be in the minority make the state officially not Jewish - and thus not in violation of the Three Oaths, which prohibit Jews from having their own state? Or would Jewish law still regard such a state as a Jewish state, due to the existence of pro-Jewish laws such as the Law of Return? And what if a complete non-discrimination policy were instated?
The Satmar Rebbe wrote in 1958, “We see from the Gemara in Sanhedrin 98a that the State of Israel will certainly come to an end before the messiah comes. He cannot come otherwise. So the state is what is delaying the redemption… But we need mercy from Heaven that the state should come to an end only by the power of G-d above, not through the nations, because if it happens through the nations it will obviously be a great danger to Jews.” (Introduction to Vayoel Moshe, p. 8)
Today perhaps we are beginning to see what that “end through the power of G-d” will look like: an end not through war, not through terrorism or conflict, but through the natural demographic trends of the population.
We do not have authorities on Torah law today of the stature of the Satmar Rebbe and others in his time. But we must present the question to the Torah leaders of our time and abide by their decision.