NAZARETH, (PIC)-- The number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank has almost doubled in 12 years, increasing obstacles to the two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reported the Guardian newspaper.
According to the newspaper, "the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank grew by more than 15,000 in the past year to reach a total that exceeds 350,000 for the first time and has almost doubled in the past 12 years."
Figures from Israel's population registry show a 4.5% increase in the past 12 months. Most of the newcomers moved into settlements that many observers expect to be evacuated in any peace deal leading to a Palestinian state.
There are an additional 300,000 Jews living in settlements across the pre-1967 border in East Jerusalem, as reported by the pro-government newspaper Israel Hayom.
The populations of the big settlement blocs of Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel were stable over the past year. Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion are expected by most diplomats and negotiators to become part of Israel under an agreement on borders, but the future of Ariel, which juts deep into the West Bank, is uncertain.
One Israeli politician predicted that the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would reach one million within four years.