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Israeli settlements in West Bank up 41 percent

Critics believe a building boom for Israeli occupants of the West Bank complicates adoption of a two-state solution in the Middle East.

By Ed Adamczyk
Israeli settlements in West Bank up 41 percent
Construction of housing for Israeli settlers in the West Bank,.such as this site east of Ranmalah,increaased by 41 percent in the first half of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015. . Photo by Debbie Hill/ UPI | License Photo

JERUSALEM, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Israeli settlement construction in the contested West Bank increased 41 percent in the first half of 2016, the government statistics agency announced Thursday.

The Israel Central Bureau of Statistics said construction of 1,195 West Bank homes for Israeli settlers began in the first half of the year, a 41 percent increase over the previous six months and a 17 percent increase over the same period last year. Construction was down in Israel and East Jerusalem, largely because of rapidly increasing prices for homes in areas where most of Israel's population resides.

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The building boom on land Palestinians seek to claim for a future state of their own has been condemned by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations as an impediment to a two-state solution in the Middle East. Hundreds of settlers' homes have been authorized in the West Bank, unauthorized residences have been retroactively legalized and illegally built Palestinian homes have been demolished.

The West Bank is now home to about 400,000 Israeli settlers, four times the number who lived there in 1993, when Israel and the Palestinians signed a peace accord. Israelis move to the West Bank for reasons of ideology and religion, as well as for lower prices than homes within Israel itself.

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The Israeli human rights group Peace Now, which supports a two-state solution, was critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's encouragement of settlements in the West Bank, saying in a statement that "Netanyahu is the prime minister of one sector only, the settler sector, which comprises of less than 5 per cent of the Israeli population." It added that Netanyahu's "investments in the settlements do not only come on the expense of the Negev, the Galilee and the rest of Israel but also lead towards a one-state reality."

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