JERUSALEM -- The number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank has crossed the 350,000 mark for the first time, and most of the growth –- now about 4.5% annually –- is coming outside the major settlement blocs in areas that are not expected to become part of Israel under a two-state solution, according to a report Thursday in the pro-government Israel Hayom newspaper.
At 350,143, the Jewish population in the West Bank has nearly doubled since 2000, when it was 190,206, said the newspaper, quoting data from the Interior Ministry. Over the last year, 15,600 new settlers were reported living in the West Bank.
The figures do not include the nearly 300,000 Jewish residents who have moved into East Jerusalem and large developments around the Jerusalem area.
Palestinians say the continued growth is killing any hopes of a two-state solution in which Palestinians would receive their own state in the West Bank.
Conservative Jewish lawmakers praised the growth. National Union Party Chairman Yaakov Katz, quoted by the newspaper, predicted that the Jewish population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would reach 1 million by 2016, "at which point the revolution will have been completed."
-- Edmund Sanders
Photo: Israeli soldiers guard a group of Jewish settlers as they tour an area in the West Bank city of Hebron and pass a Palestinian with his horse. Credit: Abed Hashlamoun / EPA