Settler leader hails Trump for enabling illegal settlement growth

Settler leader hails Trump for enabling illegal settlement growth
Yaakov Katz said that Trump has fostered a friendly new atmosphere encouraging growth of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
2 min read
20 February, 2018
Israeli settlements have grown rapidly since Trump came into power [Getty]
The number of Israeli settlements in the West Bank grew at nearly twice the rate of Israel's overall population last year, a settler leader said on Monday, predicting that the growth will surge even more in the coming years partially because of US President Donald Trump granting Israel impunity in breaking international law.

Yaakov Katz said that Trump, backed by a Middle East team dominated by settler supporters, has created a friendly new atmosphere conducive to illegal settlement growth after eight contentious years with the Obama White House.

"This is the first time, after years, that we are surrounded by people who really like us, love us, and they are not trying to be objective," Katz said. "We have to thank God he sent Trump to be president of the United States."

Katz is founder of "West Bank Jewish Population Stats," a report sponsored by "Bet El Institutions," a prominent settler organisation that has ties to Trump's closest Mideast advisers. He said the figures are based on official data from the Israeli Interior Ministry not yet available to the public.

According to his figures, the West Bank settler population reached 435,159 as of January 1, up 3.4 percent from 420,899 a year earlier. The settler population has grown 21.4 percent in the last five years.

In comparison, Israel's total population grew 1.8 percent to 8.743 million last year, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Katz said the rapid growth of the settlements should put to rest the idea of a two-state solution favoured by the Palestinians and most of the international community.

"We are changing the map," he said. "The idea of the two-state solution is over. It is irreversible,” he added.

Based on recent growth patterns, he said the West Bank settler population could approach 500,000 by the time Trump leaves office, though Palestinian sources say there are already 600,000 settlers in the West Bank. His study did not include the more than 200,000 Israelis now living in east Jerusalem, the Palestinians' hoped-for capital.

Israeli settlements  are seen as illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace, as they are built on occupied Palestinian territory.