Minister who was key point of failure in peace talks says illegal Israeli settlers in Palestine's West Bank will rise from 400,000 to 550-600,000 in next five years
The number of Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank could balloon by as much as 50 per cent by 2019, Housing Minister Uri Ariel said yesterday.
Mr Ariel, who is a member of the hard-line Jewish Home party in the governing coalition, claimed negotiations on Palestine were in their “dying throes” and predicted the settler population would spiral.
“I think in five years there will be 550,000 or 600,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria, rather than 400,000 now,” he estimated.
Mr Ariel said the number of Jews in East Jerusalem was between 300,000 and 350,000.
Some 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas which, along with the Gaza Strip, Israel captured in the 1967 war.
During the nine months of failed peacemaking, Mr Ariel continually published tenders for settlement construction, helping contribute to the failure.