Continued Jewish settlement among dense Arab populations in Judea and Samaria could potentially jeopardize Israel's Jewish majority, President Shimon Peres said Tuesday during a national memorial ceremony in honor of Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
"Israeli settlement in areas densely populated by Arabs — which came as a response to their attacks on us — could bring about a dangerous demographic shift, or, in other words, jeopardize the Jewish majority in the State of Israel," Peres stated.
"It is doubtful that a Jewish state can remain Jewish without a Jewish majority," he added.
"When Herzl said 'If you will it, it is no dream,' he did not mean we must give up the dream, but quite the opposite: In the absence of a will for the dream, or vision, there can be no state," Peres went on to say.
Peres explained that Herzl's vision was for the long term. "A Jewish state has to be an enduring safe haven for the Jewish people and serve as a spiritual center for the Jews."
The president's remarks enraged right-wing politicians and leaders. Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council (an umbrella body of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria), responded Tuesday, saying "Israel as a Jewish state currently faces only one danger and that is the unraveling of the belief in our historic right to our land. It is strange that the president decided to share his desperate political prophecy specifically at a memorial service for Theodor Herzl, who symbolized perseverance of vision in the face of those who would give up."
Director-general of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel Nachi Eyal also responded to Peres' remark, saying "The president fails to live up to his title when he divides the nation. In the past, Peres was deeply invested in the settlements, and it's a shame that his later years are an embarrassment to his younger years."
Gershon Mesika, head of the Samaria Regional Council said "we would expect the architect of the Oslo [Accords] to refrain from making his divisive remarks, after 1,000 deaths."