W. Bank Jewish population tops 260,000

Peace Now calls the increased settlement growth "severe."

ofra settlement 298 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ofra settlement 298 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The number of Israelis living in the West Bank increased by three percent in the first six months of the year, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria announced Thursday. The population increase came despite the political uncertainty over the future of the settlements because of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's unilateral withdrawal plan. At the end of June, the number of Jews living in the West Bank had reached 260,932, up from 253,748 at the end of last year, the council said, citing a report by the Interior Ministry's Population Registry. The increase can be attributed both to natural growth and people moving to the settlements, council spokeswoman Emily Amrusy said. The council said the fact that the population increase took place at a time when the government was talking about a new plan to uproot many West Bank settlements showed the "growing strength of the settlement movement." However, the council did not provide a breakdown of which settlements showed the greatest growth. Peace Now spokesman Yariv Openheimer said that according to its statistics, the bulk of the settlement growth has been in haredi communities over the Green Line.