JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel could annex the West Bank without damaging the country’s Jewish character, an adviser on Israel to Donald Trump said.
David Friedman, who also is a longtime attorney for the Republican presidential nominee, made the remarks during a recent meeting in New York with Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council.
The remarks were recorded on video and released by Israel’s Channel 2 on Saturday night, less than a day before a meeting between the candidate and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Friedman cited figures saying that even if 1.7 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, also known by its biblical designation Judea and Samaria, were made citizens of Israel, joining 25 percent of Israel’s population of about 8.16 million, Israel would still remain a majority Jewish state. He cited as reasons for this that the Jewish birthrate continues to increase while the Arab birthrate is decreasing, and that “a lot of Arabs are leaving.”
He also said that the population estimates of the Palestinians are not accurate since they do not cull the population records when people die or leave.
“The bottom line is under most calculations if you took the entire state of Israel from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and you annexed all of Judea and Samaria into Israel, the Jewish population would still be about 65 percent. That’s the conventional wisdom right now,” he said. “So the idea that if Jews somehow take control over Judea and Samaria it’s no longer a Jewish state is not true. Those aren’t the numbers.”
The figures do not include Gaza.
Earlier this month, Friedman backed Netanyahu’s claim that the Palestinian demand for a removal of settlements amounts to “ethnic cleansing.” In August, he reportedly met in Jerusalem with senior officials from the Prime Minister’s Office.