The noted Israeli journalist Amira Hass, who lived in Gaza and now lives in the West Bank in order to report on the occupation first hand is quoted as having said:
‘The Palestinians, as a people, are divided into subgroups, something which is reminiscent also of South Africa under apartheid rule’
Now whether the citation is accurate or not, this describes the reality. Palestinians today even within the borders of Israel/Palestine fall into different categories. These categories are as follows (in order of most rights and freedoms, to least rights and freedoms):
- Palestinian/Arab citizens of Israel (about 1,650,000 people, just over 20% of the Israeli population). These are the Palestinians who remained within the borders of the Jewish state and their descendants. At first they lived under a form of martial law, but gradually more and more rights were granted to them. While they don’t quite the same rights as Israeli Jews, they still have the right to vote, to run for office, to serve in the military (though they are not required to do so, nor encouraged to do so). Until recently they could not lease or buy most of the land in Israel. The attorney general overturned this in 2005 but in practice those who buy such land have problems registering their ownership and face other bureaucrat blocks.
- Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem (about 260,000 people, 57% of the population of East Jerusalem, about 29% of Jerusalem’s total population, though the city is largely segregated between Arabs and Jews, so there is little social contact). These are Palestinians who lived in East Jerusalem when it was under Jordanian rule (as was the rest of the West Bank) and their descendants. After conquering the West Bank in the June 1967 war, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, and as such they should have received Israeli citizenship automatically. This did not happen and they became permanent residents. Palestinian Eat Jerusalemites can receive Israeli citizenship under certain conditions but most them choose not to do so for political reasons. As of 2005 5% had Israeli citizenship.As permanent residents they can live and work in Israel, but can’t vote in national elections, and may lose their right to return to Israel if they leave.
- Palestinians living in the West Bank (about 2,700,000 people). These are the rest of the Palestinians who lived in the West Bank when it was under Jordanian rule, and their descendants. They can be considered citizens of the state of Palestine (as recognized as a non-member UN observer state). Basically they are governed by Fatah (as opposed to Hamas). Since earlier this year Hamas (which governs in Gaza) and Fatah have formed a National Unity Government. They can obtain a Palestinian Passport, though it seems Israel might have to approve, which allows visa-free travel to a very limited number of countries (tied for 5th least useful passport).
- Palestinians living in Gaza (about 1,800,000). These are the Palestinians who lived in Gaza when it was under Egyptian rule and their descendants. Both in this case and in the case of the Palestinians in the West Bank, many are Palestinian refugees from land which is now part of the State of Israel. Refugees both from the 1948 war and the 1967 war. They are governed by Hamas, which won the 2006 elections in both the West Bank and Gaza. Fatah tried to overthrow Hamas in a coup, but failed, and Hamas took control of Gaza while Fatah continued to rule in the West Bank. There is a blockade by both Egypt and Israel which limits the goods which can come in, and also blocks exports, which has crippled the Gazan economy. The residents of Gaza are often more or less trapped in Gaza.
As another classification there are the Palestinian refugees of the 1948 war and their descendants which are tracked by the UN organization UNRWA. There are such refugees in Gaza and the West Bank, but also others outside Israel/Palestine in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The numbers are as follows:
Gaza Strip 1,106,195
West Bank 778,993
Then there are Palestinians that live in diaspora in countries throughout the world. In total about 11,000,000 people (including all the above categories as well).
That is for the Palestinian side.
For the Jewish side there are the following divisions.
- Israeli Jews (about 6,100,000 people 75% of the Israeli population).
- Jewish population in diaspora (about 13,500,000 people, including the above Israelis).
Based on the Israeli Law of Return any one who is Jewish (that is born of a Jewish mother or converted to Orthodox Judaism), as well as their children and their grandchildren can immigrate to Israel along with their respective spouses, and receive citizenship. Though in the case of anyone not born of a Jewish mother nor converted to Orthodox Judaism they will not receive Jewish status. In practice this means that any Jewish person can immigrate to Israel if they wish to (and assuming they can find a job and/or support themselves).
Of the Jewish population in Israel there are those who live within the 1967 borders, about 5,600,000 people, and those who live in what are called the occupied territories. These people, who are called settlers are divided roughly as follows:
- 320,000 (West Bank excluding East Jerusalem)
- 200,000 East Jerusalem
- 20,000 Golan Heights (Syrian territory captured by Israel)
Of the settlers in the West Bank, almost 90% live in the major settlement blocks, which are well connected to Israel by road (many of them are considered suburbs of Jerusalem). The rest live in scattered settlements. Maps of this can be seen in this previous article. The most likely two-state solution at the current time would involve Israel keeping the major settlement blocks and giving up the rest of the settlements. This was the impasse in the 2000/2001 talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians were willing to give up their claims on the 78% of the land that Israel conquered in 1948, and were willing to waive the rights of the refugees and their descendants to return, but they were not willing to give up significant parts of the other 22% of the land.
In conclusion these are the stakeholders.
- Israeli Jews (including the settlers)
- Palestinians/Arabs in Israel
- Palestinians in East Jerusalem
- Palestinians in the West Bank
- Palestinians in Gaza
- Jews in diaspora
- The rest of the Palestinian refugees in the region (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon)
- Palestinians in diaspora