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Jewish settlement population growth slows for 10th year

The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria reports settlements grew by 3 percent in 2018, compared to 3.4 percent in 2017 and 3.9 percent in 2016.

The Jewish outpost of Amona in the West Bank. Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90.
The Jewish outpost of Amona in the West Bank. Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90.

The rate of population growth in Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria has been slowing down consistently for 10 years, according to figures from the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria.

Settlement leaders explain that the slowdown in settlement growth is the result of the government not building enough new settlement homes, meaning that fewer Israelis are moving there.

According to the report, settlements in Judea and Samaria saw population growth of 3 percent in 2018, compared to 3.4 percent in 2017 and 3.9 percent in 2016. The number of new residents of Judea and Samaria also dropped from 14,299 in 2017 to 12,964 in 2018.

The Jewish population growth rate in Judea and Samaria started to slow in 2009 when Israel agreed to then-U.S. President Barack Obama’s demand to freeze construction in the settlements. A year earlier, in 2008, the settler population saw an all-time high in growth, reaching 5.6 percent. At the time, settlement leaders believed that the growth rate would continue and push the population of the settlements over half a million within a few years, but at the end of 2018, the number of Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria stood at 448,672.

The Samaria settlement Alei Zahav, which attracts mainly young families, saw the highest growth in 2018, with the number of its residents increasing by 22.6 percent. Ma’ale Amos in Gush Etzion saw the second-highest growth rate, 17 percent, following by Slait in the Jordan Valley (16.5 percent) and the secular kibbutz Beit HaArava near the Dead Sea (15.9 percent).

“We’re happy to see that the number of residents in the area is growing, but in recent years there hasn’t been enough construction in the settlements,” council head Hananel Dorani said in response to the publication of the 2018 figures.

“The relatively slow rate of construction is the result of, among other things, an eight-year construction freeze, and today only small-scale plans are being approved. These figures are a shout out to the next government: We will be demanding more of an effort to clear obstacles to construction in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley.

“This is the way to continue promoting the settlements and even increase the housing available in Israel, and as a result, lowering [housing] prices,” said Dorani.

Despite the declining growth rate, the Israeli population in Judea and Samaria is still seeing more growth than the nation as a whole, which saw its population increase by 2 percent in 2018.

Most of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria live in 150 settlements. Forty-five percent of Israeli residents of Judea are under the age of 17, compared to 27 percent of the population of Israel as a whole.

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