BY BARAK RAVID—
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surprised many of the participants in the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday when he embarked on a monologue praising the idea of parting from the Palestinians and in relinquishing portions of the West Bank. Netanyahu said the number of Palestinians and Jews between the Jordan River and the sea “is irrelevant” and that it’s more important to “preserve a solid Jewish majority inside the State of Israel.”
The PM made these statements during a discussion on a report by the Jewish People Policy Institute on demographic changes among Jews and Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank.
Members of the institute presented the demographic data of Prof. Sergio DellaPergola, which show that, in a number of years, the demographic trends will result in a Palestinian majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
Ministers Limor Livnat and Uzi Landau were surprised by the data and asked that the data of other experts be presented – for example, the data of Yoram Ettinger, who is affiliated with the right. The right argue that the demographic threat to the State of Israel is not so serious.
The prime minister cut short the discussion and surprised those present with previously unspoken sentiments about the future Israeli presence in the West Bank.
“The debate over how many Jews and how many Palestinians will be between the Jordan and the sea is irrelevant,” Netanyahu said. “It does not matter to me whether there are half a million more Palestinians or less because I have no wish to annex them into Israel. I want to separate from them so that they will not be Israeli citizens. I am interested that there be a solid Jewish majority inside the State of Israel. Inside its borders, as these will be defined,” Netanyahu explained.
Aides of the PM realized how politically explosive his statements were and asked all those present in the room to avoid disseminating the details.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not brief the media on the statements and refused to respond to questions on the issue or provide any quotes about the statements of the PM.