Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his belief that Israel need to disengage from Palestinian areas in the West Bank in order to avoid the demographic nature of Israel as a Jewish state from being challenged by Palestinian population growth, according to Haaretz.
Netanyahu made the comments at the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting in reaction to a study presented by Jewish People Policy Institute claiming that in a number of years Palestinians will have a majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, the area currently under Israeli military control.
‘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 said during the cabinet discussion.
The comments are controversial as they outwardly express a desire by Netanyahu to withdraw entirely from large areas of the West Bank. Aides to the PM requested that nobody at the discussion leak the comments to media sources.
The demographic makeup of Israel is of concern to Israeli leaders who want to maintain a Jewish majority in an Israeli state. This is under threat from an internal growing Palestinian population relative to Israeli Jews.
Of concern also for Israeli leaders is the potential for Palestinians to abandon seeking a two state solution to the conflict and requesting a vote in the Israeli Knesset which would result in a Palestinian majority in the Israeli parliament.
Israel is accused of “cleansing” the area under its military control of Palestinians through legal measures such as secretly withdrawing residency cards from Palestinian traveling abroad. 140,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank lost their residency permits between 1967 and 1994, according to uncovered military documents, leading to a 10% decrease in the Palestinian population in the area.