How Many Settlers Are There?

In Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress in January, he quoted that 650,000 Israelis live beyond the 1967 lines. This probably refers to Israelis in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in addition to the West Bank. But where did this figure come from?

Recently a member of the Knesset published the updated number of settlers in the West Bank as 350,000 – “not including the 330,000 Israelis in East Jerusalem”. However, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the number of settlers is no higher than 330,000 in the West Bank and 200,000 in East Jerusalem.

The two main bodies that publish the number of settlers are the Israeli CBS and the Ministry of Interior. The CBS arrives at this figure through a census every several years. For every non-census year, they estimate the number of people in settlements using statistical indicators. The Ministry of Interior neither conducts a census nor estimates using statistics. They arrive at their figure using the registration of Israeli citizens based upon their stated address, regardless of where they presently reside.

People who are able to claim residence in the settlements have strong incentives to do so regardless of their actual place of residence. For this reason, Peace Now believes that the CBS figure more accurately reflects the number of Israelis actually living in settlements.

In East Jerusalem the figures are even less clear because the official data usually reflects the number of Israelis in Jerusalem as a whole (West and East Jerusalem) and the numbers of people living in neighborhoods that were built beyond the Green Line are harder to parse out from the Central Bureau of Statistics data. Based upon data available from the CBS, Peace Now estimates that there are between 190,000-200,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem. The previously mentioned 330,000 figure from the member of the Knesset is unlikely to be from either the Ministry of Interior or the CBS.

The Central Bureau of Statistics expects to release its data on the population of each settlement through the end of 2011 by mid-September.


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