Israel IDP Figures Analysis

For lack of authoritative and reliable estimates, IDMC is not in a position to estimate the number of IDPs in Israel as of April 2014.


Indeed, neither the Israeli government nor the UN has put forward any estimates or considers that there are internally displaced people (IDPs) in Israel (i.e. within the 1949 Cease fire line). As for the NGOs and civil society organisations, they have reported a wide range of figures for IDPs with discrepancies not only between them, but also for the same sources overtime. For lack of authoritative data, IDMC does not produce estimates regarding the number or category (e.g. Palestinians, Bedouins, Jews) of displaced persons. 

The Badil resources Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights estimates that there at least 335,000 IDPs to 360,000 IDPs in Israel. This figure includes both Palestinians in Galilee, Hasharon plain and the Bedouins in the Neguev/Naqab. Badil’s estimates are based on the figure of 30,000 to 40,000 people that were internally displaced in the aftermath of the 1948 war in the Galilee, and in the mixed Arab/Jewish cities of Haifa, Acre and Jaffa. Badil extrapolates 274,000 IDPs on the basis of demographic growth since 1949. To this figure, it adds an estimate of the Bedouin population in the Neguev/Naqab (some 81’000) to reach its final estimate. However, there is no official figure regarding the number of Bedouins, and estimates vary between 70,000 (Adalah) and 90,000 (ACRI). Moreover, no information is available on how many of those Bedouins live in villages that are not “recognised” by the Israeli authorities nor how many of them are IDPs.

On several occasions Israelis living in the regions bordering the Gaza Strip or Lebanon have had to temporarily relocate to safer areas as a result of hostilities. During the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in July and August 2006 over 300,000 people temporarily fled northern Israel for the centre and south of the country (Amnesty, 2006). During operation “Cast Lead” in 2009, and while no evacuation orders were given, 80 per cent of residents reportedly fled from a number of kibbutzim, such as Kfar Aza near the Gaza Strip. The great majority of them stayed with friends or family, or were hosted in partner kibbutzim in the north of the country. A limited number of families resettled elsewhere permanently (Amnesty, 2009).

Since the launch of Israel’s military operation "Protective Edge" on 8 July 2014, an unprecedented number of Israelis reportedly left their homes. As of 31 July 2014, and according to a security official, two thirds of the people living in the kibbutzim close to the Gaza border had temporarily relocated to safer areas. Those movements were spontaneous as neither the military, nor the national or municipal government gave instructions to leave the area (Haaretz, 31 July 2014). Precise figures on the number of people concerned, or additional information on the whereabouts of the people fleeing their home, were not available as of 31 July 2014.

Background to displacement in Israel

From 1950 to 1952, UNRWA assisted IDPs, then handed over the responsibility to Israel. The government decided to temporarily provide IDPs (called refugees at the time) with welfare and jobs, and also enacted a series of laws affecting IDPs and their descendants. In particular, the Absentee Property Law of 1950 allowed the State to acquire control of all land and property left behind by people who had fled during the 1948 war. Under the law, people who had come back or were still in the country, such as IDPs, were defined as “present absentees” and lost their land.

In the 1980s, most of the Palestinians in Israel who had been displaced in the wake of the creation of the State of the state in 1948 stopped considering themselves as IDPs.Like other Arabs in Israel, Palestinian IDPs have become Israeli citizens, and an overwhelming majority do not have any protection or assistance needs linked to their displacement in1948, nor do they face any particular discrimination as IDPs. For all intent and purposes, while the majority have secured local integration, they have outstanding compensation and reparation claims of their historical loss. Moreover, some have continued to demand to return to the homes they lost in 1948, in particular the villagers of Ikrit and Bir’em. In 2003, following six years of hearings, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Ikrit inhabitants could not return to their former homes, and instead had the choice of receiving land elsewhere in the country or monetary compensation.

In addition, some Palestinian IDPs are still vulnerable to evictions, in particular those living in social housings in Jaffa, and Akko, while in Lod and Ramleh residents face housing demolitions, as they have not been able to change the status of their agricultural lands

IDMC uses only the most credible accurate information available. Notwithstanding the caveats and limitations of the source information described above, IDMC believes this to be the best data and is grateful to the partners for sharing it.