Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reiterated his belief that Israel "needs to withdraw" from the biblical Jewish provinces of Judea and Samaria.
Speaking at a gathering of farmers in the Jezreel Valley, Olmert maintained that Israel would have to make "tough decisions" with regard to territorial compromise.
According to the Prime Minister, anyone who thinks Israel can continue to hold onto the provinces captured in the defensive Six Day War of 1967 is "living in a dream."
"Everyone understands that the State of Israel can't exist without a guarantee of a Jewish majority," Olmert added.
Although many in Israel believe the question of Jewish majority to be a fundamental problem, recent research suggests otherwise. A major demographic study published in 2005 by Bennett Zimmerman, Roberta Seid and Michael L. Wise revealed that the status of a Jewish majority between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea is much more stable than previously reported, with Jews representing at least 60 percent of the total population.
The data further suggests that the numbers of Arabs living in Judea and Samaria (commonly referred to as the West Bank) in particular have been grossly overstated.
Olmert added in his address that any territorial compromise to giveaway all or parts of Judea and Samaria would not occur unilaterally—as was the withdrawal from Gaza 2005—but rather through a negotiated solution with the Palestinian Authority.
The statements came on the eve following Olmert's release of 255 convicted terrorists serving terms in Israeli prisons, back into the general population of Judea and Samaria, a move which drew the criticism of many throughout the country. Olmert did not demand any information on the whereabouts of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for the release of the terrorists, but rather said that letting the terrorists out of jail was a "goodwill gesture."
According to the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, there are over 260,000 tax paying Jewish residents living in the region. When including the outlying neighborhoods of Jerusalem, the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria reaches close to half a million.
The provinces of Judea and Samaria are also home to many of Judaism's holiest cities including Hevron, Shechem, Beit El, Beit Lechem, and Shiloh. Each of these cities (and others) play key roles in Jewish History as chronicled by the Jewish Bible.
On Saturday, Olmert stated his intention to run for a second term as chairman of the Kadima party, despite numerous calls for his resignation, allegations of criminal activity, and public approval ratings in single digits.