Settler population rises to nearly 450,000

Number of Jews in Judea and Samaria nears 450,000, while growth rate plummets to just 3%.

David Rosenberg ,

Maaleh Adumim 2016
Maaleh Adumim 2016
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

The number of Israelis living in Judea and Samaria rose to nearly 450,000 during 2018 settler leaders reported Tuesday morning.

According to a report released by the Yesha Council – the umbrella group representing Israeli municipalities across Judea and Samaria – the Israeli population in the area reached 448,672 in 2018.

That marks a significant decline in the annual growth rate of the total settlement population, which grew by just 12,964 people in 2018, equaling 3.0% annual growth, compared to 14,299 in 2017 (3.4%), 15,765 in 2016 (3.9%), 15,617 in 2015 (4.0%), and 15,558 in 2014 (4.2%).

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The decline in 2018 is part of a long-term trend over the past decade. In 2008, the last year before President Barack Obama took office, the Israeli population of Judea and Samaria was growing by 5.6% annually, or nearly three times the growth rate of the population of Israel as a whole (2.0%).

Settler leaders blame the slowing growth rate on a lack of housing permits from the government. Despite a significant rise in the number of housing permits and tenders issued in 2017 and 2018, the number of homes completed declined significantly in 2018, following a drop in the number of permits issued during the Obama administration.

From November 2009 to September 2010, the Israeli government – under pressure from President Obama - froze most construction projects in Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria, and drastically cut the number of new housing permits issued.

Even after the building freeze ended, the government limited the number of housing permits in Judea and Samaria, leading to a long-term decline in construction in the area.

While the number of permits issued and housing starts have increased since Obama’s departure, settlement leaders say the number of new tenders issued still do not meet demand.

“There’s not enough construction in Judea and Samaria,” said Yesha Council chief Hananel Dorani.

“The amount of new construction based on a projects which were already approved just isn’t enough to satisfy the growth rate. We’re happy to see that the number of residents in the area is increasing, despite the lack of sufficient housing across the settlements in recent years.”

The number of settlements in Judea and Samaria rose in 2018, with the first new state-sanctioned settlement in Judea and Samaria in a quarter of century, Amichai. The first residents of Amichai moved into temporary homes there in March, 2018. With the establishment of Amichai, the number of fully-recognized settlements established by the government rose to 133.