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European Council on Foreign Relations





Do territorial and demographic trends strain or sustain prospects for the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel?

Current trends in settlement and outposts expansion, growth of settler population, eviction of Palestinians and demolitions of Palestinian property, lack of freedom of movement and access to Area C show an entrenchment of the occupation which is still reversible but only with ever-increasing political and financial effort.

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The number of settlers in the West Bank continues to grow, at a higher speed than natural population growth in Israel. According to data from July 2013, the most recent estimates, there are 367,000 settlers in the West Bank (excluding Jerusalem), 7,700 of those are new residents from January-July 2013. If these estimates are confirmed, this would show a 6.68 percent increase over 2012 when, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 341,400 settlers lived in the West Bank and is significantly higher than population growth in Israel proper which was 1.8 percent in 2012, in line with previous years.

The first six months of 2013 saw a 70 percent increase in new construction starts in settlements compared to the same period in 2012. In total, 2,840 housing units were started, under construction, or completed during this period. Thirteen days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reported to have suspended plans to build 20,000 homes on 12 November, Israel’s Civil Administration (for the West Bank) authorised the building of an additional 799 housing units in the West Bank, some of them in outposts. Not all of the data for 2013 is available yet, so these figures may eventually grow by the end of the year. For instance, according to data acquired by Peace Now through a Freedom of Information Act, between March and July 2013 the Ministry of Defense approved the construction of an additional 2,487 housing units in West Bank settlements, which came on top of the 6,200 units approved between November 2012 and March 2013.

As of July 2013, some 62 percent of the barrier has been completed, with a further 10 percent under construction – a slight increase from the 8 percent that was under construction in 2012. The remaining 28 percent has been mapped out but not constructed.

Palestinian access to Area C, and the resources therein, remains severely constrained, with no civil or security jurisdiction for the Palestinian Authority (PA) and very little Palestinian planning approved. While the number of permanent checkpoint has remained stable since 2012, at 61, Israeli authorities erected 2,400 flying checkpoints over the course of the first ten months of 2013, amounting to a rate of 240 per month, higher than the 213 recorded in the last quarter of 2012.

Meanwhile, the separation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip continues, with 5,908 Palestinians exiting Gaza via the Erez crossing in October 2013 and a total of 41,768 exits since the beginning of 2013. This is in line with the figures for the second half of 2012, when 24,394 Palestinians crossed through Erez, but this is only a fraction of the pre-second intifada levels, when more than 500,000 Palestinians exited from Gaza each month.