Settlements in Focus - Vol. 1, Issue 9: "Taking Inventory of the West Bank"

After the recent dismantling of four settlements in the northern part of the West Bank (Ganim, Kadim, Homesh, and Sanur), there are still 121 settlements in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem).

How many settlements are there in the West Bank?

After the recent dismantling of four settlements in the northern part of the West Bank (Ganim, Kadim, Homesh, and Sanur), there are still 121 settlements in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem).

Other figures given for the total number of settlements in the West Bank (by various organizations or the Israeli government) reflect different methods of counting, rather than a disagreement over facts on the ground. For example, some confusion has resulted from an Israeli government effort to bring small municipalities under the authority of larger ones, resulting in the disappearance of some settlements from lists (as is the case with, for example, Ofarim, which was combined with the settlement of Bet Arye).

How many settlements are there in the West Bank that are not officially-recognized (i.e., outposts)?

As of August 31, 2005, Peace Now has confirmed the existence of just over 100 unofficial settlements -- often referred to as "outposts" -- in the West Bank. Here again there are some minor differences regarding the exact number of outposts, based again on different methods of counting them. In this case, some sites that Peace Now considers outposts (based on factors like distance from nearest settlement and presence of independent infrastructure) may be categorized by others, for political purposes, as "neighborhoods" of existing settlements. Again, however, there is no disagreement over the actual facts on the ground -- only over how to count them.

How many settlers are there today in the West Bank?

According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2004 there were approximately 235,000 Israelis residing in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem).

How many settlements/settlers fall inside the projected route of the security barrier?

The settlement blocs (see below for more details) that are inside the current route of the security barrier include a total of 37 settlements, home to 155,384 settlers. In addition, another 14 settlements located along the length of the Green Line, home to 22,967 settlers, are also included inside the barrier. This yields a total of 51 settlements and 178,351 settlers located on the west of the security barrier (based on Dec. 31, 2004 population numbers).

A map of the route of the barrier as adopted by the Government of Israel can be seen HERE.

As noted on the map, some sections of the barrier have been approved subject to further examination. Settlements in Focus Vol. 1, Issue 2, discussed suspicions that further examination might actually indicate an effort by the government of Israel to gain time needed to sell the plan to the United States and the international community, recognizing that there is substantial opposition in the international community to Israel building certain portions of the barrier). The fact that, in the days after disengagement, the Israeli press reported that the government had already issued expropriation order for land to construct the Ma ale Adumim portion of the route - one of the areas subject to further examination would seem to confirm these suspicions.

How many settlements/settlers are left outside the projected route of the security barrier and where are they located?

The current route of the barrier leaves 73 settlements and around 56,800 settlers on the east side of the barrier (based on Dec. 31, 2004 population numbers).

What are "settlement blocs"?

"Settlement bloc" is an informal term, historically referring to areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip where groups of settlements have been established in relatively close proximity to one another. The size and borders of the blocs has always been left undefined by Israel, and the blocs are not recognized by the Palestinians or the international community as having any special status (i.e., being part of a bloc makes them no different from any other settlements). At the same time, settlement construction and expansion on the ground has systematically thickened the blocs and expanded them to include settlements located at a greater distance from their centers. Ongoing construction in the West Bank continues in this same vein.

In the current political context, the term settlement bloc has taken on a very clear meaning, referring to groups of settlements that Israel treats as a cohesive unit. This new meaning is reflected in the Israeli Government s approved route of the security barrier, which leaves the major settlement blocs on the Israeli side of the barrier.

Where are the settlement blocs and what do they contain?

The settlement blocs, as defined by the route of the barrier, are:

  • · the "Ariel bloc," referring to an area of the West Bank delimited to the east by Ariel, to the north by the settlement of Kedumim, to the northwest by the settlements of Karnei Shomron and Ma ale Shomron, and to the south by the settlements of Bet Arye and Ofarim. The area includes 14 settlements and 37,568 settlers, and includes numerous illegal outposts established mainly in the past few years.
  • the "Jerusalem bloc," referring to the chain of settlements located north, northwest, and east of Jerusalem, anchored by the large settlements of Givat Ze ev and Ma ale Adumim. The area includes 8 settlements and 47,039 settlers.
  • the "Etzion bloc," referring to an area southwest of Jerusalem, between Bethlehem and Hebron, anchored by the large settlements of Efrata and Beitar Illit (a rapidly expanding ultra-orthodox settlement abutting the Green Line). The area includes 10 settlements and 39,809 settlers. The Etzion Bloc and its retention by Israel has a special resonance for many Israelis: a small Jewish population that existed in the area prior to the establishment of the state of Israel was wiped out by Arab attacks in 1948, and the machine-gunning of 15 Jewish prisoners remains a potent image in the memories of many Israelis. However, Efrata and Beitar Illit (the largest settlements in the bloc in terms of both land and population) were not sites of Jewish habitation pre-1948; the pre-1948 settlements were located west of Efrata and south of Beitar Illit. The popular definition of the Etzion bloc has expanded to include them, blurring the line between what was once Jewish and what was not, and creating the impression that the entire bloc has a special emotional and historical importance to Israel.
  • the "Modi'in Illit bloc," referring to a group of settlements located northwest of Jerusalem, near the Green line, anchored by the large ultra-orthodox settlement of Modi'in Illit. The area includes 5 settlements and 30,968 settlers. Modi'in Illit was originally called Qiryat Sefer; changing the name to "Modi'in Illit" (literally, "upper Modi'in") represented an effective way of blurring the Green Line by making it appear that the settlement is a suburb of the Israeli city of Modi'in (located inside the Green Line).

    (Note: As discussed earlier, discrepancies regarding the numbers of settlements in a given area reflect different methodologies for counting the settlements, rather than a dispute over the facts on the ground. Population figures are taken from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics for December 31, 2004).

What is the growth rate of the West Bank settler population overall (not including East Jerusalem)?

According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, over the past 4 years (since 2001) the annual growth rate of the Israeli population in the WB was just over 5%. This is a very high growth in comparison to the general Israeli rate of growth, which according to the CBS was 1.8% in 2004.

Are settlements expanding faster than the natural growth of their populations?

There is a significant gap between the "natural growth" rate (growth due to births) and the total growth rate (growth of the total population due to all sources, including migration) in many settlements. Historically, natural growth has represented about one-third to two-thirds of annual total growth in settlements, and actual construction in settlements has provided more than sufficient housing to accommodate this growth (i.e., there is no housing shortage in West Bank settlements). For more details about natural growth, including a table charting natural growth rates from 1995-2003, see Settlements in Focus, Vol. 1, Issue 3.

In 2003 "natural growth" in settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was 3.5%. Many settlements in the West Bank are growing at a much faster rate (see below for details). Among these, the largest population increases are found in the religious/ultra-orthodox settlements (or the religious neighborhoods in mixed settlements). In addition, settlements located close to the Green Line and/or Jerusalem continue to grow more rapidly than outlying settlements. These growth rates also correlate to ongoing construction in the settlements, as documented by Peace Now (for further details go HERE).

Finally, there is notable growth in some settlements in the Jordan Valley an area where settlements are otherwise drying up (notable in percentage terms, rather than absolute terms, since these are very small settlements to begin with). This growth correlates to an ongoing program of the World Zionist Organization s Settlement Department that provides exceptionally generous incentives to entice young Israeli couples to move to this site. This program includes: tuition assistance (up to NIS 12,000 per year to cover studies), direct payments (up to NIS 12,000 per year if one member of a couple works in the Jordan Valley) and housing subsidies (rent waived for up to four years or up to NIS 500 per month to cover rent). Details are available (in Hebrew) HERE.

Does the evacuation of the settlements in Gaza and part of the West Bank mean that at the end of 2005 there will be fewer settlers than there were at the beginning of the year?

Disengagement entailed evacuation of all Gaza settlements and 4 settlements in the West Bank -- leading to the removal of around 9000 settlers.

Provisional populations statistics for the West Bank settlements compiled by the CBS project that between Jan. 1 and June 30th -- prior to the start of the disengagement process -- the population of West Bank settlements (not including East Jerusalem) increased by around 9370. Keeping in mind this projected growth accounts for only the first half of the year, it is clear that at the end of 2005 the total number of settlers will be greater than it was at the beginning of the year, even after taking into account disengagement.

Where are the new settlers moving?

Of the 9370 projected new settlers since Jan. 1, 2005, only about 750 moved to settlements located on the east side of the route of the barrier. The overwhelming majority moved, instead, to settlements located on the west side of the route of the barrier, with nearly 80% of those settlers moving to either Ma ale Adumim (Jerusalem area), Beitar Illit (Gush Etzion bloc, ultra-orthodox), or Modi'in Illit/Qiryat Sefer (Modi'in Illit bloc, ultra-orthodox).

Which settlements are expanding the fastest (in percentage terms)?

Looking at 2004 population growth statistics, the settlements located to the west (on the Israeli side) of the route of the security barrier with the most rapidly growing populations that are:

  • Mevo Horon: Located near the Green Line, growing at an annual rate of 16.1%
  • Reihan: Located near the Green Line, growing at an annual rate of 14.5%
  • Neve Daniel: Located in the Gush Etzion bloc, growing at an annual rate of 14.2%
  • Kfar Ha'oranim, aka Menora: Located in the Modi'in Illit Bloc, growing at an annual rate of 14.3%
  • Rosh Tzurim: Located in the Gush Etzion bloc, growing at an annual rate of 13.3%
  • Har Adar: Located near the Green Line, growing at an annual rate of 12.8%
  • Modi'in Illit: Located in the Modi'in Illit Bloc, growing at an annual rate of 12.7%
  • El'azar: Located in the Gush Etzion bloc, growing at an annual rate of 12.6%
  • Pedu'el: Located in the Ariel bloc, growing at an annual rate of 12%
  • Beitar Illit: Located in the Gush Etzion bloc, growing at an annual rate of 8.6%
  • Kfar Adumim: Located in the Ma ale Adumim bloc, growing at an annual rate of 7.5%
  • Ma'ale Adumim: Located in the Ma ale Adumim bloc, growing at an annual rate of 6.1%
  • Immanuel: Located in the Ariel bloc, growing at an annual rate of 5.3%

Looking at 2004 population growth statistics, the settlements located to the east of the route of the security barrier with the most rapidly growing populations that are:

  • Gittit: This Jordan Valley settlement has a growth rate of 35% -- the highest of any in the West Bank. Formerly home to mainly secular Israelis, the population is becoming increasingly religious.
  • Yitzhar: This Nablus-area settlement has the second highest growth rate in the West Bank, at 21.5%. It is home to some of the West Bank s farthest right-wing settlers.
  • Asfar/Mezad: This Hebron-area, ultra-orthodox settlement boasts a growth rate of 18%.
  • Kochav Ya'akov: Located north of Jerusalem, this settlement was formerly home to mainly religious-nationalist settlers. However, growth in this settlement, which is at 14.9%, is mainly in its newer ultra-orthodox section.
  • Nahaliel: Located northwest of Ramallah, this settlement is home to orthodox settlers and far-right wingers, with a growth rate of 13.6%.
  • Kfar Tapuach: Home to some of the farthest right-wing settlers in the West Bank, including those affiliated with the outlawed Kach and Kahane Chai parties, this settlement is located between Nablus and Ramallah, and has a growth rate of 13.4%.
  • Adam/Geva Binyamin: Located north of Jerusalem, this settlement is a home to a mix of religious and secular Israelis, reflecting a largely Likud orientation. The annual growth rate is 12.8%.
  • Eli: Located north of Ramallah, this is a religious, ideological core settlement associated with the Yesha Council (i.e., the leadership of the settlement movement). The annual growth rate is 12.1%.
  • Beracha: This Nablus-area settlement is home to far right-wing settlers and has an annual growth rate of 10.2%.
  • Haggai: Located in the Hebron area, this settlement, growing at a rate of 10.5% per year, is home to far right-wing religious settlers.
  • Mechola: This Jordan Valley religious settlement has a growth rate of 10%.
  • Netiv Ha'gdud: This Jordan Valley settlement has a growth rate of 10%. Formerly home to mainly secular Israelis, the population is becoming increasingly religious.
  • Telem: This Hebron-area settlement has a growth rate of 10%. Though historically a Likudnik settlement, it is increasingly home to religious settlers.
  • Talmon: Located west of Ramallah, this settlement is home to increasingly hardline religious ideological settlers. It has an annual growth rate of 8.8%.
  • Ma'ale Michmash: Located north of Jerusalem and growing at an annual rate of 7.7%, this settlement is home to religious ideological settlers.

(For further insight into the ideological orientation of a given settlement, voting patterns for each settlement can be seen -- in Hebrew -- HERE)

Where do the most hardline settlers live?

In general, both the most politically hardline and most religiously devout of the settlers live along Route 60 -- the main north-south highway in the West Bank. The most extremist of the settlers live on opposite ends of the West Bank: in the north, in the settlements around Nablus (Kfar Tapuach, Yitzhar, Bracha, and Itamar), and in the south, in settlements located in and around Hebron (settlements inside Hebron and Kiryat Arba). All these settlements are on the east side of the security barrier and deep inside the West Bank.


Produced by Dror Etkes, Settlements Watch Director, Peace Now (Israel) & Lara Friedman, Government Relations Director, Americans for Peace Now

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