HERZLIYA, Israel—Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a national address here yesterday announced his administration will push for a Palestinian state and Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, saying Arabs might soon outnumber Jews and threaten Israel’s Jewish character unless the Palestinians quickly are offered a state of their own.
Olmert, leading overwhelmingly in most polls ahead of March’s national elections, delivered the conference’s closing speech last night in which he urged a West Bank withdrawal for reasons of Palestinian demography.
“The choice between allowing Jews to live in all parts of the land of Israel and living in a state with a Jewish majority mandates giving up parts of the land of Israel,” Olmert said. “We cannot continue to control parts of the territories where most of the Palestinians live.”
Olmert said under his West Bank withdrawal plan, Israel will maintain select security zones and some of the area’s major West Bank Jewish communities, alluding to evacuating West Bank towns that fall outside Israel’s security fence.
About 200,000 Jews live in the West Bank.
The security fence, still under construction in certain areas, cordons off nearly 95 percent of the territory from Israel’s pre-1967 borders. More than half the West Bank’s Jewish residents reside on the side of the fence closest to Israel. About 80,000 more Jews live on the other side of the barrier.
Olmert said he is seeking a West Bank withdrawal to “[set] the permanent borders of the state of Israel to ensure a Jewish majority.”
However, Zimmerman’s new study, titled “Forecast for Israel and the West Bank 2025,” states a West Bank withdrawal based on demography is groundless because Israel’s Jews will more than double Arabs in 20 years.
The study found Palestinians have inflated their population by as much as 1.5 million. It also said Jewish birthrates are far outstripping Palestinian rates, and Israel’s own statistics fail to account for even low levels of Jewish immigration when calculating national demographic trends.