The international community considers all Jewish settlements built on land seized in 1967 -- such as Pisgat Zeev -- to be illegal
The international community considers all Jewish settlements built on land seized in 1967 -- such as Pisgat Zeev -- to be illegal © Ahmad Gharabli - AFP/File
The international community considers all Jewish settlements built on land seized in 1967 -- such as Pisgat Zeev -- to be illegal
AFP
Last updated: March 6, 2014

Israel's West Bank settler population grows over 4%

Israel's settler population in the occupied West Bank increased by 4.2 percent in 2013, interior ministry figures show, as US-backed peace talks with the Palestinians falter over the settlement issue.

The number of settlers living in the West Bank rose to 375,000 in January 2014 from 360,000 at the same time the year before, according to statistics AFP obtained on Thursday from the ministry.

The figure excluded the nearly 200,000 settlers living in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

Starts on new settlement building in the West Bank increased by 123.7 percent last year, data from Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics showed Monday.

The figures came as Israel and the Palestinians remained at an impasse in ongoing peace talks that US Secretary of State John Kerry helped launch in July, with Israel's settlement expansion a key sticking point in the negotiations.

President Barack Obama criticised Israel's settlement expansion last week, ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"We have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we've seen in a very long time," Obama said in an interview published on Sunday.

"If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited."

The Palestinians have been infuriated by the ongoing construction, which has seen Israel advance plans for more than 11,700 new settler homes since the talks started, and they have baulked at any talk of extending the nine-month negotiating period that ends late April.

Unconfirmed reports suggest Washington will demand a partial freeze on construction in isolated settlements outside the major West Bank blocs that Israel hopes to retain in any peace deal.

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