The Problem of Palestinian Demographics and the Palestinian Youth Explosion

By Anthony Cordesman


The CIA estimates the Palestinian population of the West Bank was 1,443,790 in July 1994 – roughly the point when key trades of territory for peace began – and 1,556,000 in July 1998. It totaled 2,164,000 in July 2002, and had increased by 50 percent since 1994. It still had an extraordinarily high growth rate of 3.39%, and it was very young. Some 44% of the population was 14 years of age or younger. The Palestinian population in the Gaza was 731,000 in July 1994, and 1,054,000 in July 1998. It totaled 1,225,911 in July 2002, and had increased by 68 percent since 1994. The population growth rate was 3.95%, one of the highest in the world, and 50% of the population was 14 years of age or younger.

The UN provides a separate estimate of the total Palestinian population of the Gaza, East Jerusalem, and West Bank. It indicates that this population was 1,006,000 million in 1950, and rose to 1,100,000 in 1960, 1,094,000 in 1970, and then leapt to 1,477,000 in 1980 and 2,152,000 in 1990. This increase was the result of improvements in income and health services during the initial period of Israeli occupation before the Intifada. The Palestinian population rose to 2,629,000 in 1995 and 3,183,000 in 2000 – a more than 20% increase during the five years before the Israeli-Palestinian War [the second uprising] began.

That these problems will increase steadily with time is indicated by the fact that the UN estimates that the Palestinian population will increase to 3,808,000 in 1995, 4,498,000 in 2010, 5,250,000 in 2015, 6,891,000 in 2025, and 11,055 in 2050. The World Bank estimates that the Palestinian population of both the West Bank and Gaza will increase from 3.1 million in 2001 to at least 4.8 million in 2015 – an increase of 55% if the current rate of Palestinian emigration continues, birth rates drop sharply in the near future, and no Palestinians return from the Palestinian diaspora in countries outside the West Bank and Gaza.


Source: Anthony Cordesman, "From Peace to War: Land for Peace or Settlements for War," (DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 15, 2003), pp. 12-13.