Of all places, it was at the state memorial ceremony for Binyamin Ze’ev Herzl [the founder of Zionism claiming Israel as the national homeland of the Jews], held [Tuesday, July 10] at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem that Israeli President Shimon Peres chose to make a statement that is likely to stir a [political] storm, primarily in right-wing circles. “The Israeli settlement in the territories is liable to lead to a dangerous demographic change," Peres said.
Opening his address, Peres explained that settlement in areas densely inhabited by Arab population could pose a threat to the Jewish majority in the Land of Israel. "It is doubtful whether a Jewish state without a Jewish majority would be able to remain Jewish," Peres warned. "National independence in a democratic world requires the safeguarding of a Jewish majority and national identity in a multi-cultural world necessitates the preservation of the unique spiritual character of the Jewish People. When Herzl said 'If you wish it, it is not a dream,' he was not talking about giving up the dream, but rather meant to say the very opposite: Without a genuine wish to realize the dream, that is, the vision, a Jewish state would not be able to exist."
In response to Peres' address, Knesset Member Uri Ariel (National Union), head of the parliamentary State Control Committee, said: “Regrettably, the President of Israel has once again made a faux pas with an unfortunate statement that upsets large parts of the Israeli public. It is a controversial statement drawing on the concept of 'a new Middle East' and it is an insult first and foremost to the exalted office of the presidency, which is entrusted with the task of upholding national unity.”
Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said: "It is a shame that at a state memorial in honor of Herzl the President takes the liberty to talk politics and deliver an anti-Zionist message. Peres has not learned the lesson from past mistakes. Herzl dreamt of the State of the Jewish People, while Peres is dreaming of a new Middle East, free of Jews."
Knesset Member Arye Eldad, Ben-Ari 's fellow faction member, said that "the man responsible for the Oslo disaster, the man responsible for a thousand strategic mistakes, the man none of whose forecasts has materialized, has now let out his next false forecast, number 1,001."
At the same time, Peace Now Director General Yariv Oppenheimer voiced support for the President's statement, noting that Peres "is dead right," and that "it's only a pity that it has been said more than 30 years too late."