Number of Israeli settlers living in West Bank tops 421,000: NGO
JACK GUEZ (AFP)
More than 421,000 Israeli settlers are currently living in the West Bank, according to figures released Thursday from the Yesha council- the umbrella organization of Jewish settlement councils in the West Bank.
The Yesha council said the number of settlers in the territory had grown by 3.9 percent since 2015, twice the rate of population growth inside Israel.
Its figures excluded Jewish residents of east Jerusalem, where more than 200,000 Israelis live.
It said growth had slowed slightly since 2012 because of building freezes by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government under international pressure, particularly from the Obama administration.
The Israeli Knesset on Monday evening passed a controversial bill paving the way for Israel to recognize some 4,000 settler homes illegally built on private Palestinian land.
The left-wing Peace Now NGO said it covers over 50 rogue outposts built on at least 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of Palestinian private land.
The law prompted international outcry -- although US President Donald Trump's administration was conspicuously silent.
Since Trump's inauguration, Israel has announced more than 6,000 new homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, seen as key parts of any future Palestinian state.
International law considers all settlements to be illegal, but Israel distinguishes between those it has authorized and those built without official permission.
The law is seen as another step towards at least partial annexation of the West Bank, a key demand for parts of Netanyahu's right-wing cabinet, including the hardline Jewish Home party.
Most of the international community considers settlements an obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
(Staff with AFP)
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Abbas refuses to negotiate. Keep building until he is sitting at a negotiation table with no preconditions.