02/03/2023, 14.31
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Jewish settlers top half a million in the West Bank

Another 200,000 settlers live in East Jerusalem. The settler community grew by 2.5 per cent in 12 months, 16 per cent over the last five years. The settlers' goal is to pursue their expansionist policy under Netanyahu's ultranationalist government. Three million Palestinians live in the same area.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The West Bank Jewish settler population now exceeds half a million, a milestone in Israel’s expansionist policy in the Palestinian territory.

For pro-settler and pro-occupation leaders, this is but a step for further growth, especially now that they can count on the support of Israel’s newest government, the most ultra-nationalist, right-wing in the country’s history.

According to West Bank Jewish Population Stats, a pro-settler website, official data indicate that the population in the settlements reached 502,991 on 1 January 2023, up by 2.5 per cent in 12 months, 16 per cent over the past five years.

"We've reached a huge hallmark," said Baruch Gordon, the director of the group and a resident of the Beit El settlement. "We're here to stay.”

Crossing the threshold of half a million reflects an enhanced settlement policy pursued by Israel’s current ultranationalist government, which is opposed to any Palestinian state.

Settlements are at the top of its list of priorities. In fact, it has pledged to legalise existing outposts, which exist in violation of international law. Hitherto, they enjoyed tacit support; now it is open.

To implement its goals, the government is planning to approve the construction of new homes in the West Bank. "I think that in the coming years of this government there will be more building than there has been in the last 20 years of governments," Gordon said.

It should also be noted that settlements expanded under every Israeli government, irrespective of their political or ideological persuasion, even at the height of the peace process in the 1990s.

Israel's previous, short-lived government, which included parties supporting Palestinian statehood along with those opposing it, continued to build settlements.

Amid this, violence continues, with victims and attacks involving Christians as well, like yesterday, at the Church of the Flagellation.

Despite repeated calls to curb its growth, the settler population has continued to grow under the current US administration led by Democrat Joe Biden, still stimulated by the tacit support of the previous administration under Donald Trump, a Republican.

Just last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in the region, ostensibly to revive talks and support the increasingly remote possibility of a Palestinian state.

Demographic data about the settlements do not include East Jerusalem, which in theory should become the future capital of a Palestinian state, but is also home to more than 200,000 Jewish settlers.

If the Palestinian population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are counted, the population of the occupied territories reach about three million.

“All settlements are illegal. There is no legitimacy for settlements or the presence of settlers in the Palestinian territories,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“The increase in the number of settlers is the result of Israeli government policies that do not believe in the two-state solution”.

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