Primarily sourced from Peace Now’s Settlements in Focus with additional information from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Haaretz.
Settler Populations Statistics (excluding East Jerusalem)
1980 – 4,000
1990 – 73,240
2000 – 200,683
2005 – 249,235 (10% of the West Bank population)
History of Settlements
Official state settlement began in 1967 under the supervision of a Labor government, which established nearly 30 settlements housing approximately 5,000 settlers from 1967-1977. Most of the settlements were built along the Jordan Valley and in the surroundings of Jerusalem. The ascendancy of the Likud government in 1977 brought about a growth in the settlement population, particularly in the heart of the West Bank. Likud remained in power and in 1982 Israel dismantled all settlements in the Sinai peninsula. In 2005 under the guidance of Ariel Sharon’s Likud government, Israel dismantled all settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the northern part of the West Bank.
How Settlers Impact Decision-Making
The Yesha Council is an internal settler governing body that has supreme authority in the West Bank. The council is comprised of the 24 leaders of the local and regional settlement councils, which are political bodies that govern the daily activities of all communities in the West Bank. Additionally, the Yesha council includes 5-10 visible or influential leaders of the settlement movement. The council acts as a de-facto government of the settlements by receiving taxes from regional councils, aiding the planning and construction of settlements, and coordinating security with the IDF.
On the national level, council members hold great influence over government officials and military leaders. The council is also able to mobilize mass numbers of supporters, while also controlling large sums of money diverted from funds provided by the government to local and regional settlement authorities.
Under Israel’s political system representatives are determined by party rather than geographic area. Settlers do not have specific representation in government, but trend toward support of certain political parties.
National Union-National Religious Party (NU-NRP)
In 2006 the party received 29.7% of the vote in the territories compared to 6.9% of the vote inside Israel.
United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Shas
The two main ultra-orthodox parties received 12.6% and 10% of the settler vote, respectively, for a total of 22.6%. This compares with a combined vote of 14.4% inside Israel.
Likud received 11.3% of the vote in the territories, compared with 8.9% of the vote inside Israel.
While running on a plan of “convergence,” which would entail the dismantling of numerous West Bank settlements, the party won 10.4% of the settlement vote compared with 21.8% of the vote inside Israel.
Established by settler Avigdor Lieberman, the party ran on the platform of transferring significant portions of Israeli Arab villages to a Palestinian state in exchange for annexing Israeli territories in the West Bank. The party won 8.9% of the vote in the territories and 9% of the vote inside Israel.
Labor received 4.7% of the vote in the territories and 15.1% of the vote inside Israel.