Houses can be seen at the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maale Efrayim in the Jordan Valley.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The settler population in the West Bank reached 385,900 by the end of last year, according to data the Central Bureau of Statistics published this week.
The annual release of the population data coincided with United States and the United Nations condemnation of the growth of such communities.
According to the CBS, settlers make up 4.5% of the country’s population of 8.4 million.
However, their annual growth of 4.1% is slightly more than double the 2% rate in the rest country.
For the settlers, that marks a slow down in growth from the 5.3% increase they enjoyed in 2009, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entered office, and the 7.9% rate they saw in 2000.
Out of the 15,200 new residents of Judea and Samaria in 2015, 78% were babies born to parents living in West Bank. Fifteen years ago, settler population growth was more dependent on Israelis relocating to the West Bank. Natural growth accounted for only 43% of the population increase in 2000.
There are 126 West Bank settlements; in 2015 48% of the population lived in the five largest communities, four of which are cities.
The largest Jewish city, Modi’in Illit, had a population of 64,179, followed by Beitar Illit, which had 49,343 residents.
Both cities are located just over the pre-1967 line and have ultra-Orthodox populations.
The third-largest Jewish West Bank city is Ma’aleh Adumim, located east of Jerusalem, some 4.5 kilometers over the pre-1967 line. According to the CBS, it had a population of 37,525 in 2015. Right-wing politicians and Benny Kashriel, the city’s mayor, have complained that it has received very few building permits, creating what they say is a de facto freeze.
According to the CBS, no construction was started in the city in the first two quarters of 2016. In 2015, its population grew by only 121 people.
The fourth-largest settlement city, Ariel, located some 16.1 kilometers over the pre-1967 line, in the heart of Samaria, had a population of 18,717 at the end of 2015.
The fifth-largest settlement, which is not yet a city, is the community of Givat Ze’ev, which is located outside of Jerusalem some 4.5 kilometers over the Green Line. It had a population of 16,123 people in 2015 and is growing faster than both Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim.
The next five largest settlements are Oranit, which had a population of 8,495, Efrat with 8,301, Alfei Menashe with 7,638, Kochav Ya’acov with 7,313 and Kiryat Arba with 7,108.