The population of Israelis residing in the West Bank now makes up more than half a million people, according to a report published on Thursday.
Conducted by the Yesha Regional Council, the report found that as of January of this year, the Israeli population in Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley stands at 502,678 residents and approximately 150 communities.
Shlomo Neeman, mayor of the Gush Etzion Regional Council and chairman of the Yesha Council, said: “The region is flourishing and thriving with 150 communities, among which are four cities, a magnificent university, tourist centers, and high tech industries. Real estate developers are increasingly investing in and developing the region, attesting to the high demand. The release of construction restrictions will increase the desired Israeli development in the area and lead to a decrease in prices.
Neeman continued: "Unfortunately, even after 25 years, and with more than half a million residents, we are prisoners of a military administration whose actions do not correspond with the reality on the ground. We will continue to work with the present governments with the aim of adapting to the changes and maintaining the momentum of construction, and the development of roads and infrastructure in the area for our dear residents and for all of Israel.”
Will the number of Jewish residents in West Bank double?
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan in October pledged that there will be millions of Jews living in Judea and Samaria in the future, as he spoke at the end of a Sukkot holiday hike to the remains of an Ottoman-era train station at Sebastia, which drew thousands of participants.
"We will bring millions of Jews to Judea and Samaria," said Dagan at the time. He spoke just over a week after the Sovereignty Movement published a declaration signed by 56 politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to support massive housing construction in West Bank settlements if elected by way of solving the country's housing crisis and bringing down real estate prices.
What is life like for Israelis living in the West Bank?
From the Judean desert to the hilltops of Samaria, the security cabinet authorized ten outposts in February as new West Bank settlements, many of which have already existed for over two decades.
Despite a spike in terrorist attacks starting in March, settlers in Samaria in the northern West Bank say they still feel safe and are aiming to live life as usual.
In Ariel, a settlement 6 km. from Huwara, where two Israelis were murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in March, the mall was bustling two weeks later with shoppers starting off the week, getting groceries, clothes or a late lunch.
An Ariel resident compared the violence to crime in Chicago, saying “it’s becoming somewhat similar here because the Arabs have guns. When they didn’t have guns it was much more calm. Stabbings and stone-throwing they’ve always done.”
Tovah Lazoroff and Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.