Peres Says Settlements May Jeopardize Jewish Majority in Israel

Israeli President in unusual remark during memorial service for the visionary of the Jewish state, Theodor Herzl.

In an unsual remark during memorial service for the visionary of the Jewish state, Theodor Herzl, Israeli President Shimon Peres voiced on Tuesday an unusual political statement.

Peres, who in the past three years consistently refrained from making controversial remarks, said that construction in settlements could "jeopardize the Jewish majority in Israel."

"Israeli settlements located in populated Arab areas, as a response to their attacks on us, might bring a threatening demographic shift, meaning, jeopardize the Jewish majority in Israel," Peres said during the service in Jerusalem, adding that "without a Jewish majority, there is a doubt the Jewish state will remain Jewish."

Since Benjamin Netanyahu entered the Prime Minister's Office, Peres has limited his remarks concerning the settlements. During the negotiations leading up to the 10-month settlement construction freeze in 2009, Peres publicly supported the measure in an effort to renew peace talks with the Palestinians. Peres also supported the freeze applying to East Jerusalem.

In the past year, Peres had made several attempts at renewing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, and even held clandestine meetings with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

In his back-channel contacts with Abbas, approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Peres and Abbas came close to reaching understandings that would have allowed for peace talks to be renewed. However, at that point Netanyahu had demanded that contact between the two cease.