A pro-settlement organization reported Thursday that Israel’s West Bank settler population had surpassed 500,000, marking a significant milestone.
The settlers’ leaders expected that population growth would be even quicker under Israel’s new ultranationalist administration.
According to a report by WestBankJewishPopulationStats.com based on official data, the number of settlers increased to 502,991 as of January 1—an increase of more than 2.5% in a year and about 16% over the previous five years.
The group’s director and a resident of the Beit El community, Baruch Gordon, declared, “We’ve reached a significant milestone.” “We intend to stay here.”
The achievement comes as Israel’s new administration, comprised of ultranationalist parties opposed to a Palestinian state, has prioritized increasing settlements above all else.
The government has already committed to legalizing squat outposts that have long received implicit official support and speeding up approval and settlement home construction in the West Bank.
According to Gordon, there will be more construction in the following years of this government than in the previous 20.
Every Israeli government has allowed settlements to grow, even during the heyday of the peace effort in the 1990s.
Even Israel’s short-lived previous administration, which contained supporters and opponents of a Palestinian state, continued to expand settlements.
The report also comes days after a U.S. official visit, as a fresh outbreak of violence shakes the area.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed support for an independent Palestinian state. Under the Biden administration, the settler population grew amid increasing American calls to stop development after years of President Donald Trump’s laissez-faire attitude.
More than 200,000 settlers live in annexed east Jerusalem, which is not included in the settlement population report.
Three million Palestinians live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem collectively.
In the 1967 Middle East conflict, Israel seized control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians want those areas to become their sovereign nation.