Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics last month released the most recent population statistics for West Bank settlements. The figures show that during 2010 the growth rate was 4.5 per cent compared to only 2.9 per cent for Israel as a whole.Despite the ten month construction freeze that ended in September, the Jewish population in West Bank settlements, illegal under international law, grew by nearly 15,000 and now totals 327,800. These figures do not include the estimated 230,000 Jews living in annexed East Jerusalem.

The rate of growth across the settlements was not uniform. Beit El for example grew by only 3 per cent to 5,867, whilst Bracha saw an 11 per cent rise. Of the larger settlements Beitar Illit’s population rose by 6.4 per cent to 40,000 and Modiin Illit by 7.7 per cent to nearly 50,000.

MK Yaakov Katz, head of the of the National Union party, said that at current growth rates and without a construction freeze, the Jewish population in the West Bank can be expected to hit a half-million by the middle of 2018. Announcing the data on Israeli television Katz went on to say that, ‘The extensive growth rate in our Biblical homeland expresses the deep and strong will of the People of Israel to settle its land in its entirety as the Land of its Forefathers, to which only they have full rights.’

In reporting on the figures, Arutz Sheva, an Israeli news site which promotes settlement in the West Bank, also noted that the Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu recently told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that, ‘It should be rembered that we, as Jews, have been within the broad borders of the Land of Israel not tens or hundreds of years, but thousands of years. When the Palestinians talk about historic rights, they should remember that they have been there a shorter time. The rights of the Jews to Hebron, Beit El, Rachel’s Tomb and Shilo are greater and much more significant. Therefore these places should remain in our hands in any arrangement.’