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West Bank settler population rises 4.5 percent to 350,000

JTA

July 26, 2012 | 10:44 am

More than 350,000 Jews are living in West Bank settlements, a 4.5 percent increase over last year, according to the Israeli government.

Peace Now, which monitors settlement growth, claimed that the number is inflated.

According to the Times of Israel, Israel’s Interior Ministry reported that 350,150 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, an increase of 15,580 from last year. Including eastern Jerusalem and other Jerusalem neighborhoods, the total population of Jews living beyond the Green Line that separates Israel proper from its administered territories is approximately 650,000. (Dani Dayan, chair of the Yesha settlers council, put the number at 550,000 in an Op-Ed that appeared Thursday in The New York Times.)

Knesset member Yaakov Katz said that “within four years,” there will be more than 1 million Jews living beyond the Green Line, and “then the revolution will be completed.”

In 2000, fewer than 200,000 Jews lived in settlements.

Peace Now activist Hagit Ofran said the figures may be inflated because they are based on Israel’s population registry rather than the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

“The growth occurs mostly in ultra-Orthodox settlements,” she told the Times of Israel. “Unfortunately the government promotes the construction of settlements and encourages the Israeli public to move to settlements.”

In his New York Times Op-Ed, Dayan wrote that the settlements are “here to stay.”

“Our presence in all of Judea and Samaria—not just in the so-called settlement blocs—is an irreversible fact,” he wrote, using the biblical reference to the West Bank. “Trying to stop settlement expansion is futile, and neglecting this fact in diplomatic talks will not change the reality on the ground; it only makes the negotiations more likely to fail.”

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