A West Bank settler group on Tuesday said the number of people living in Israeli settlements surged at a much faster rate than the overall Israeli population last year and predicted even more rapid growth.
Baruch Gordon, director of West Bank Jewish Population Stats, said Trump's policies as created a much friendlier environment for the settlers, clearing the way for a surge in construction in the coming years.
“It’s just simply opened up. There’s no longer this cloud looming over it,” Gordon said. “Since the change of the U.S. administration, the atmosphere for construction permits has become much easier. They’re being given with greater ease,” he said. “I think possibly the next report and certainly in the ones after that, I think we’ll start to see a huge surge in the numbers here,” he added.
Gordon also cited other reasons for the rapid growth. An estimated two-thirds of the settler population are religious Jews, who tend to have larger families. In addition, he said the cheap costs of housing have lured many young families that cannot afford homes in Israel proper.
The population in Jewish settlements of the West Bank was up 3.3 percent. In comparison, Israel’s overall population grew 1.9 percent. The data showed robust growth in settlements across the board, from large towns located near Israeli population centers to isolated communities deep inside the West Bank. The figures did not include data for east Jerusalem, where well over 200,000 Israeli Jews now live.
Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group that said last month that Israel has pushed forward plans for thousands of new settlement homes since Trump took office. It also predicted a huge increase in construction in the next few years. Peace Now said the data in Tuesday’s report seemed “logical,” citing the Israeli government’s policy “to encourage construction and relocation to the West Bank.” It said the Trump effect “cannot be seen at this time” because of the lag time between approval of permits and actual construction.
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called the growth in the settler population a “direct result” of U.S. policy.
Gordon said the latest data should put an end to the international community’s longstanding support for a two-state solution.
“Those who continue to talk about a two-state solution, in my mind it’s just a sign that they’re removed from the reality and the facts on the ground,” he said.