The Israeli-Palestine conflict has been studied from many standpoints: military strategy, international politics, religious ideology, and so on. One component of the conflict, however, has been largely ignored: demography. And yet demography has played, and will continue to play, a crucial role in the political decisions involving the Middle East. According to projections for the territories of the ex-British Mandate (that is, Israel and Palestine), in the year 2050 Jews will comprise only 35% of the total population. The author states that "we must understand that Israel cannot be simultaneously great (and therefore exempt from territorial concessions), Jewish, and democratic. At least one of these three prerogatives will have to be forsaken". Sergio Della Pergola has contributed advice on social and demographic policies to the former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and has a long working relationship with Ehud Olmert, aimed at defining Jerusalem's future and dating back to when the current prime minister was the city's mayor. One of the sources of inspiration for the innovative Israeli policy of withdrawal from Gaza, Della Pergola describes - through the prism of population trends - the changing balance underlying the difficult but inevitable cohabitation in this troubled area and identifies pathways that could lead to a credible peace process.
Sergio Della Pergola, who has been living in Israel since 1966, holds the Shlomo Argov Chair in Israel-Diaspora Relations and is the director of the Division of Jewish Demography and Statistics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.