Monday, October 15, 2007

Hamas and Fatah back Palestinian Headcount

Amid the big brouhaha over Condoleezza Rice's seventh visit to the region this year, while expectations for the Bush administration's legacy-polishing Middle East summit planned in Annapolis next month are plummeting fast, there is a cooperative effort by Palestinians to get some "facts on the ground" of their own. Hence an official new census is underway. Oddly enough, officials are starting off by tallying buildings and only later doing a headcount. According to the Associated Press, the results should count for something:

Rapid Palestinian growth would bolster Palestinian territorial demands, while Israelis' fear of being outnumbered in areas they now control might make them more willing to consider a West Bank withdrawal.

Later this week, some 5,000 census-takers will fan out across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, first to count buildings, and, in December, to count people. Results are expected by February.

"We hope we can use these statistics in the negotiations," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, a supporter of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Ramallah-based administration. "It's not only important for the political process, but also for building the institutions of the state."

The militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has also said the census results are important and that it will cooperate.

Present guesstimates suggest around 3.9 million Palestinians inhabit the occupied territories. Last December, government statistics revealed that the Israeli population comprises 5.4 million Jews, 1.4 million Arabs and 310,000 others (Christians and miscellaneous) Most of the million plus Russians emigres are tallied in with the Jews. The stumbling block is East Jerusalem. It is still unclear whether Israel will allow Palestinians to take a census in just a portion of Jerusalem when they are busy promoting a P.R. campaign that hails "40 years of Reunification." Israelity bites.

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