The growth rate among Israeli settlers in the West Bank declined last year for the sixth consecutive year, but remained above the national average, according to government statistics seen by The Times of Israel on Sunday.
The number of Israelis living over the Green Line increased by 14,299, or 3.4 percent, in 2017, demographics information gathered by the Interior Ministry’s Population Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) showed.
In 2016, the population increased by 15,765 or 3.9%.
The figures do not cover Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, which Israel, as opposed to the international community, does not consider settlements.
While the growth rate among Israeli settlers has not risen since 2012, the 3.4% figure from 2017 was still higher than the national average, which stood at 2% in the past year.
PIBA gathered population numbers from over 150 West Bank settlements and illegal outposts, where 435,708 Israelis are said to live. Some 2.75 million Palestinians currently live over the Green Line, according to the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit.
The figures showed a largely even distribution of ultra-Orthodox, national religious and secular Israelis living in the West Bank.
Responding to the numbers on Sunday, the Yesha settlement umbrella council expressed “restrained joy” over the relative growth.
But the group blamed the slight decline in the growth rate on a “quiet freeze” in settlement construction, claiming that the vast majority of homes that had received final government approval in the past year had yet to be built.
“The media reports constantly talk about the approved housing units, but the reality is completely different,” Yesha said in a statement.
Statistics from the Peace Now settlement watchdog confirmed the grievance, saying construction has begun for just 46 of roughly 3,000 homes that gained final approval in 2017.
The Yesha statement suggested the construction slowdown was an issue of bureaucracy rather than politics.
However, the group called for “serious government action to remove the barriers to construction and increase the supply of housing” over the Green Line, arguing that doing so would lower prices throughout the rest of country.