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Arab population growth outpaces Jews in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Jerusalem's Arab population is increasing at three times the pace of the Jewish population, according to a study released on Tuesday.
Researchers at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies predict that at that rate Arabs will make up 40 percent of the population in 20 years -- up from about 31 percent.
Demographics are at the heart of Israeli debate over the holy city's political future with Israel and the Palestinians both laying claim to Arab East Jerusalem.
Israel captured the east during the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians want it for the capital of a future state they plan to proclaim as early as November.
About two-thirds of the people in Jerusalem are Jewish but the study found the Jewish portion of the city's approximately 646,000 population was at a new low at the end of 1999.
"The Arab population in Jerusalem has increased in the last two to three years at three times the pace of the Jewish population," Maya Choshen, editor of the institute's statistical year book, told Reuters.
She attributed the difference to a combination of a higher natural increase among Arabs and a rise in the number of Jews opting to leave.
Between 1967 and 1998 the Jewish population grew 121 percent and the Arab population 186 percent, the study found. The birth rate among Jews in 1998 was 25.2 per 1,000 population compared with 34.7 per 1,000 Arabs.
At talks with the Palestinians in July, Ehud Barak became the first Israeli prime minister to consider expanding Israeli-held Jerusalem to include Jewish areas in the West Bank while transferring Arab areas of Jerusalem to Palestinian rule.
Israel Kimhi, research coordinator of the Jerusalem institute, said Barak had received alternative proposals from the institute under which up to 95 percent of the population could be Jewish in a newly demarcated Israeli Jerusalem. The study predicted ultra-Orthodox Jews, who in 1995 comprised 29 percent of the city's population, would make up 32 percent in 2020.
It found the most densely populated part of the city was the walled Old City, holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims and built on a piece of land of less than one square kilometer. Of the Old City's 32,488 people, about nine percent are Jews.
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