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Trump’s Israel advisor (again) argues for annexation of the West Bank with bad math

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Donald Trump’s Israel adviser again raised the possibility of his candidate backing the Israeli annexation of the occupied West Bank while dining with the representative of a settler organization in New York, according to a report published by Israel’s Channel 2, which obtained a video of the meeting.

A clip of the discussion shows Trump aide David Friedman mid-conversation with settler leader Yossi Dagan, supposedly two weeks ago. 

The video picks up as Friedman makes a math-based argument for Israeli territorial expansion to the entire West Bank. The crux of his position is that annexation can be “Jewish and democratic,” because there would be a majority of Jews if the territories’ populations were combined with Israel. 

“The whole idea that we have to jettison Judea and Shomron [the West Bank] to retain the Jewish characteristics of Israel is just not true,” Friedman said. “Under most calculations if you took the entire state of Israel from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, meaning you annex all of Judea and Shomron into Israel the Jewish population would still be about 65 percent. That’s the most…the conventional wisdom right now.” 

“No one has bothered to do the math,” Friedman added between mouthfuls, before breaking down his statistics.

“There are 400,000 Jews living in Judea and Shomron, there’s another 400,000 living in East Jerusalem. They are multiplying right now,” he said.

Friedman’s calculations are based on discredited numbers. He places 800,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a sharp increase from the 500,000 to 650,000 settlers, according to governmental and United Nations figures. The 65-percent Jewish majority is also discredited. Most demographers say the numbers are around 50 percent Jewish and 50 percent Palestinians between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Friedman also claimed that the Jewish population is increasing at a faster rate than Palestinians. “So the truth is if you ask ten statisticians how many Arabs are living in the West Bank they couldn’t give you an answer because nobody really knows,” he said.

The Palestinian population in the West Bank has steadily increased since 1967, the time of the first Israeli census of the territory, according to data from both the Israeli Civil Administration and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Both agree that around 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank.

On Gaza, Friedman hinted the Palestinians there would be left out of President Trump’s middle east peace plan. He said: “The evacuation of Gaza [in 2005] had one salutary effect, it took two million Arabs out of the equation.”

Before hiring on with the Trump camp in April, Friedman was relatively unknown, a New York-area lawyer with no apparent expertise in the Middle East other than heading a fundraising arm to a West Bank settlement, Beit El. (The group is called American Friends of Beit El Yeshiva and sends around $2 million per year to fund a religious school outside of Ramallah).

Friedman also once worked as Trump’s bankruptcy attorney on the presidential candidate’s Atlantic City casino.

Dagan is a spokesperson for the Shomron Regional Council, a group noted for touring delegations of U.S. officials in the occupied West Bank.

The demographic data Friedman referenced, which is off by more than one million persons from that of official counts, was put out by the American-Israel Demographic Research Group, a band of Israeli and American scholars who published their findings on two blogs calling for “one Jewish state” under Israeli control. 

The group has no independent website, yet their findings are posted on bare-bones online portals, with titles like the “One State Plan: A Democratic Jewish State” and “Israel Demography.”

Their statistics are rejected by establishment demographers as a lobbying tool with a casual relationship to truth aimed at undermining support for a Palestinian state.

Demographer Della Pergola of the Hebrew University told the Times of Israel that the researcher behind the study, former Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger, was “delusional.” 

“He’s peddling some imaginary future in an utterly unprofessional way, because he never took a course in demographics. He’s nothing but a charlatan,” Pergola said.

The video recording is not the first occasion in which Friedman has raised the issue of Israeli annexation. In a June interview with Haaretz, he told the Israeli newspaper Trump could dump the two-state plan in favor of annexation. In making that case, he also cited data originating from Ettinger’s group.

Friedman’s comments have ruffled feathers amongst American Jewish institutions in recent months. After he spoke against peace talks in favor of a single Jewish state on CNN in July, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, wrote in an open letter to Friedman that the Trump one-state plan, “would either be a Jewish state that would cease to be a democracy and disenfranchise millions of Palestinian souls, or it would be a democracy and cease to be Jewish.”

Friedman responded: “I must reject categorically your statement that Israel must either be a democratic state or a Jewish state.” In that correspondence, he again made reference to the same bad math reflected in the video of his lunch in New York. 

Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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9 Responses

  1. irishmoses on September 30, 2016, 12:23 am

    I think the Friedman’s numbers are pretty accurate. Here’s how I calculate it:
    – Gaza 1.9 million Palestinians
    – West Bank 2.8 ” ”
    – Israel 1.8 ” ”

    Total: 6.5 million Palestinians
    less Gaza 4.6 million (From Jordan River to the Sea, not counting Gaza)
    Jews in Israel: 6.4 million (including WB and EJ)
    Total pop: 11.0 million (not counting Gaza)

    6.4/11=.58 or 58% Jews in Friedman’s proposed annexed Greater Israel (he says 65%). Actual numbers are imprecise but likely in that neighborhood.

    The key is to exclude Gaza and call it a self-governing state (“Palestine”?). The annexed WB can then be allowed the same limited rights as Israeli Palestinians including the right to vote which then provides an argument that there is no apartheid in our new Greater Israel. They’ll likely slow-walk the “full rights” for WB Palestinians (“until they no longer show violent tendencies toward the Jewish State”) to allow time to maximize the Palestinian departures and increase the Jewish birthrates.

    Oh, and those 4.4 million Palestinians living in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, mostly as stateless refugees of which about 1 million still living in refugee camps, and about 2.5 million living in other countries? Faggetiboutit. Make your own way in the world and forget about ever returning to Palestine.

    And the world will tsk, tsk, and do F-all to stop it. Good PR (Hasbara) will make it look like the best solution in a difficult area of the world. How magnanimous are those Israeli Jews since, per God’s word, it all belongs to the Jews alone! See, they are willing to share.

    Also, Friedman’s West Bank, East Jerusalem Jewish numbers comport with what the Israeli Minister of Housing claimed a couple of years ago in an interview conducted in Hebrew for an Israeli Hebrew publication. He should know.

    • MHughes976 on September 30, 2016, 3:46 am

      This plan would in the end create a fairly substantial number of enfranchised Palestinians, maybe too many for Israel’s comfort.

    • annie on September 30, 2016, 5:23 pm

      Total pop: 11.0 million (not counting Gaza)

      you should pick one or the other. you can’t simultaneously claim it’s a total population while not counting part of the population. and why say “jews in israel .. including WB and EJ”? knowing WB/EJ are not included in israel. words matter.

      • irishmoses on October 1, 2016, 11:11 am

        Annie, I was attempting to show the logic (and danger) of Friedman’s argument (or the annexation plan). The 11 million represents the total population that Israel wants to keep. They want to exclude Gaza because they don’t want the 2 million Palestinians living there. His point is that “total population” will leave Israel with a large Jewish majority. As my math attempted to show, he’s right, annexing everything but Gaza would give Israel that large Jewish majority.

        As to “Jews in Israel (including WB and EJ), I take your point although nothing in the tenor of my argument implies that I believe WB and EJ are part of Israel (I would have used Judea and Samaria instead if I believed that). I suppose I could have extended the line of that part of the equation to say: “Israeli Jews, including those living illegally in the WB and EJ.” There, is that better?

        As to the actual substance of my posting, do you have any comment about that? As I indicate in my second post, Friedman has outlined the final solution to Israel’s Palestinian problem. This is a vitally important MW article. I’m amazed (and disappointed) that it has attracted no attention and only a few responses.

        Posting problems may be causing this. I’ve noticed my posts for this article get rejected with an error message(“error rendering page”). The only way I can make them work is to copy my post, exit MW, reenter, and then paste my post in the article. Hopefully, someone at MW is trying to fix this glitch.

      • annie on October 1, 2016, 4:34 pm

        i know we’ve been trying to fix the commenting problem over the last couple of days. i would write adam if you’re still having problems. but don’t assume because the article (any MW article) doesn’t get comments it’s not getting attention. general traffic is not as reflected in comments as it is in shares.

        I was attempting to show the logic (and danger) of Friedman’s argument (or the annexation plan). The 11 million represents the total population that Israel wants to keep.

        i know, i was attempting to show the logic (and danger) of adopting the framing of our ideological adversaries. once you control the language — the way things are framed — you control the way people think about them. think about it:

        – Gaza 1.9 million Palestinians
        – West Bank 2.8 ” ”
        – Israel 1.8 ” ”

        Total: 6.5 million Palestinians

        by this standard why not:

        – Israel 5.58 million Jews
        – Occupied Territories 820,000
        – Occupied Palestine (WB and EJ) 800,000 jews [and as allison points out, probably less]
        – Occupied Syria (Golan heights) 20,000

        Total: 6.4 million Jews

        The 12.9 million represents the total population of the region. 49.613% jewish and over 50% palestinian

        this is friedman (and israeli) propaganda:

        “The evacuation of Gaza [in 2005] had one salutary effect, it took two million Arabs out of the equation.”

        they are not “out of the equation” just because israel would like them to be. in fact, over 50% of the regional population doesn’t think they are “out of the equation” at all. yes of course i see “The key” of that propaganda is “to exclude Gaza and call it self-governing”, that’s the framing that’s been used to flip the demographics in a jewish favor for over a decade.

        but in reality when you look at the demographics of Israel (not including occupied territory) there are 5.58 million Jews (even less not including illegally annexed territory) and aprox 1.76 million Palestinians, which is not a “population of approximately 8,585,000 inhabitants”(wiki), it is more like a million less*. which means jews do not make up 75% of the population of israel. they use the setter population to boost that percentage even tho they don’t even live in israel.

        nothing in the tenor of my argument implies that I believe WB and EJ are part of Israel… As to the actual substance of my posting, do you have any comment about that?

        “tenor” aside (good intent), my point did focused on your “actual substance”. friedman is another hasbara charlatan, allison was right for calling out the BS. meanwhile, no one should be adopting the language of our adversaries to tackle this problem and find equitable solutions. gaza is most definitely part of palestine, whereas, the golan heights is not even part of israel!

        *as danaa (and others) have pointed out, it’s not easy dropping israeli citizenship if you’re an israeli jew. i’m fairly certain israel includes a lot of expats living outside the country in their recorded demographics.

      • MHughes976 on October 2, 2016, 9:23 am

        Testing ability to comment!

  2. irishmoses on September 30, 2016, 1:11 pm

    That’s why they’ll sell the plan and do the annexation but slow-walk the actual granting of voting rights until the Palestinians prove they are no danger to the State of Israel. Same thing happened after 1948. The Palestinians in Israel lived under military rule until 1967.

    I see this happening once Obama is gone. It will be glossed up with great PR. Clinton, Trump, the Europeans, nobody has the energy to try to stop it. They just want the problem to go away and be seen as a “fair solution for both sides.”

    The end times for the Palestinians’ dream of self-determination are near.

  3. JLewisDickerson on November 10, 2016, 6:29 pm

    RE: “Trump’s Israel advisor (again) argues for annexation of the West Bank with bad math”

    MY COMMENT: Damn the torpedoes ‘bad math’, full speed ahead! ~

  4. rhkroell on December 15, 2016, 9:51 pm

    In my view, any equitable accounting would have to include all Palestinians living in exile.

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