Some 268,000 settlers lived in the West Bank during 2006, marking a five percent increase from the previous year, this according to data published on Wednesday by Peace Now.
The Jewish population growth is three times higher in the West Bank than on the other side of the Green Line, the report said. The difference stems from the many Orthodox families moving to haredi communities in the territories and the fact that settlers have a higher birth rate.
The number of settlements remained unchanged in 2006, and it is still 121. Although new outposts have not been set up, 90 new caravans have been added to existing outposts since the beginning of 2007 and 30 outposts are now building permanent housing units.
Peace activists blocked
The report also reveals that during 2006, tenders were issued for building 952 housing units in the settlements (compared to 1,184 in 2005). These tenders were all published after the general elections in March 2006. Peace Now estimates that over 3,000 housing units are being built today.
Two-thousand settlers live in 102 illegal outposts in the West Bank, the report said. Three empty caravans were removed from one outpost during 2006.
Peace Now stated that despite the government's commitment to delimitate six outposts, they did not stop growing in 2006 and they are now building permanent housing units.
In May 2006, in response to a petition filed by Peace Now with the Supreme Court, the government promised to present an overall outpost evacuation plan. The court is scheduled to discuss the petition again in March.
A group of Peace Now activists attempting to enter a settler outpost in the West Bank Wednesday were stopped by Israeli Police.