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Research group: 'Natural' settlement growth a myth

Oct. 31, 2012 9:47 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 1, 2012 11:04 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel has already built over three times more settlement buildings this year than the state's own population growth figures would require, a Palestinian research group said Wednesday.

Israel's justification for settlement expansion based on natural population growth is a myth, the director of the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem, Jad Isaac, told EU and international representatives at a briefing in Bethlehem.

According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel's natural population growth rate is 1.7 percent, meaning the 628,000 settlers would need 2,541 new houses each year, Isaac said.

To date this year, Israel has built 9,799 settler homes, which is more than 3.5 times natural population growth, according to ARIJ's figures.

In 2011, Israel added 11,526 buildings to its settlements, more than 4.5 times growth figures, the ARIJ briefing explained.

ARIJ noted that settlement growth this year was in contrast to the demolition of at least 243 Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. Israel disputes this and says the future of its 161 settlements on occupied Palestinian land will be decided in a peace agreement with Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders say continuous settler expansion denies Palestine a contiguous territory on which to found an independent state. The last peace talks collapsed in 2010 after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a 10-month partial settlement construction freeze.

"Israeli politicians have never declared their approval for any formula that would allow the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders," Isaac said.

"So far, the intentions of Israeli politicians do not favor a sustainable Palestinian state, but rather their endless control of the land."
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