Israeli settler leader Yaakov Katz: Settlement expansion ‘irreversible’

March 27, 2017 6:30 pm

Israeli settlers
start to build a new illegal outpost north of the Palestinian village of
Ain al-Baida north of the occupied West Bank, October 25, 2016. (Photo
by AFP)

A prominent Israeli settler leader has said the number of Israelis living in the occupied West Bank has soared to about half a million people in the past five years.
The
announcement by came after reports said the Israeli regime
had agreed with the Trump administration to restrict construction in the
West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however,
poured cold water on those hopes on Sunday, telling a cabinet session
that he “would like to make it clear there is much in these reports that is not true.” 
Israel’s Channel 2 reported over the weekend that Netanyahu
had consented during his February visit to the US to limit settlement
expansion in the West Bank in return for the construction of a new
settlement for those removed recently from Amona.
Nentanyahu’s
office denied the report in a statement released on Saturday night,
saying it was “incorrect” with “quite a few inaccuracies.”
The top
Israeli settler leader put a further damper on the report, stressing
that there is no change to the settlement expansion policy.
“We
are talking about a situation that is unchangeable,” Katz said on
Sunday. “It’s very important to know the numbers, and the numbers are
growing.” 
He cited a major growth in the numbers of settlers in
the West Bank, saying the settler population hit 420,899 early this
year, a 23-percent increase from 342,414 at the beginning of 2012.
The
increase, which he said was twice Israel’s annual population growth of
two percent, meant that the settlements are “irreversible.”
Katz
said the numbers were based on data from the Israeli interior ministry
that have not yet been made public. They were published on a new website
sponsored by Bet El Institutions, a settler organization that counts
members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle among its supporters.
The
figures, however, did not include settlement expansion in east
Jerusalem al-Quds, where more than 200,000 Israelis are now settled on
the land which the Palestinians want to make the capital of their
independent future state.
Israel
forced itself as an entity on the international map in 1948 on the back
of full-on military takeover of vast expanses of Arab lands. In 1967,
it occupied more chunks of territory belonging to , Lebanon,
and Syria.
Ever since the latter takeover, Tel Aviv has been
propping settlements and settler units across the Palestinian territory.
The structures are deemed illegal by the United Nations and the Geneva
Convention, which forbids construction upon occupied land.
Last December, the UN Security Council passed a resolution against Israel’s settlement activities.
However,
emboldened since Trump’s January inauguration, Tel Aviv has ratcheted
up the expansion of settlements work and “legalized” structures built in
the past in a further challenge to the international community which
regards them illegal.
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