The first half of 2013 was characterized by an average 2.12 percent population increase in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley, according to population registry data obtained by Israel Hayom. The information suggests that the growth rate is highest in the Har Hebron Regional Council, at 4.8%.
On Sunday, the cabinet expanded its list of cities and communities eligible for government subsidies, which included a record number of Judea and Samaria settlements. The decision came just days after the resumption of long-frozen peace talks and drew quick Palestinian condemnation. The government hopes to encourage more people to move to the communities on the “national priorities” list.
As of July 1, the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria stood at 367,000 people, a growth of some 7,700 new residents over the last six months. This represents 2.12% population growth, as opposed to an average 1.9% nationwide population growth throughout the country in 2012.
This figure is significant when compared with what some say is the low availability of housing in Judea and Samaria, the sharp rise in housing prices and the palpable slowdown in construction tenders and the advancement of zoning projects in the settlements.
The population in the Gush Etzion Regional Council grew by 4.1%, while the population in the Samaria Regional Council grew by 3.2%. Among the most sought after communities were Har Gilo, situated south of Jerusalem, which grew by a whopping 21%; Maskiot and Rotem, in the Jordan Valley, which grew by an average of 14%; and Nahliel, in the Binyamin region, which grew by 10%.
An analysis of the data appears to suggest that the Jewish population growth in Judea and Samaria has dropped minutely compared with the same time frame last year, when the average population growth stood at 2.25%. Additionally, it is clear that the majority of new residents opt for the recognized settlements situated within the large blocs, while the secluded communities outside the blocs “only” gained 2,400 new residents.
Har Hebron Regional Council head Tzviki Bar-Hai said: “The council launched a growth campaign a year ago, and these are the fruits. The Har Hebron communities have become a magnet for couples and families who seek value-based education, quality of life and to make a national contribution.”
Yesha Council Deputy Director Yigal Dilmoni added that “due to the high demand, the government needs to renew construction and issue new tenders in the settlement blocs.”
Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer, who vehemently opposes the settlements, issued a statement saying that “at this rate, pretty soon the two-state solution will no longer be viable.”