Increase in settlements, decrease in settlers
Despite the expanse of areas that the occupation authorities gnaw out of Palestinian territories, they have failed to achieve demographic subversion; the demographic balance remains in favor of the indigenous Palestinian populations.
The West Bank is witnessing an unprecedented increase in settlement expansion. Figures by the Colonization & Wall Resistance Commission show that the number of settlements in the West Bank totaled 176 in 2022, in addition to another 186 settlement outposts unauthorized by the zionist government, aside from the territories that serve as militarized zones.
It is also expected that 60 more settlement outposts with 2883 built-in units will be constructed soon following a bilateral agreement between the Likud and the Jewish Power party.
These settlement blocs occupy 18% of the overall West Bank. However, despite the expanse of areas that the occupation authorities gnaw out of Palestinian territories, they have failed to achieve demographic subversion; the demographic balance remains in favor of the indigenous Palestinian populations.
Over the span of the last three years, the rate of Israeli population growth has been steadily decreasing: from 5.5% in 2020 to 3.3% in 2021 and 2.2% in 2022.
The number of settlers in the West Bank increased from 719,452 in 2021 to 726,427 in 2022, recording an increase of slightly more than 7,000 settlers. This spike, however, was not due to the influx of settlers into the West Bank but rather due to a high increase in birth rates in the settlements of "Modi'in" and "Beitar Illit", which are occupied by sizeable Haredi settlers and settlers that migrated from the Russia-Ukraine war.
Statistics by the Israeli government show that the number of settlers departing from the settlements of the West Bank is greater than that of those settling in. In Al-Quds, more than 28,000 settlers left in 2022 and only 12,200 remain.
These figures show that the Israeli government has failed to achieve demographic subversion by funneling in settlers to Al-Quds and the West Bank despite the huge sums of money invested by the successive Israeli governments.
Zionist researchers, of different intellectual and political backgrounds, have deliberated to analyze the reasons for the outflux of settlers from Al-Quds and the West Bank to the "inside"; i.e. Palestinian territories occupied in 1948. Most of their conclusions revolved around three basic factors:
- Unattractive living conditions (settlements in the West Bank are far from the service infrastructure elsewhere).
- Lack of job opportunities
- Conservative religious social values imposed by the Haredi groups
- Staying in settlements is contrary to Security Council Resolution No. 2334, which demands "Israel" end settlement [expansion] in the West Bank, including the eastern part of Al-Quds, and stipulates the illegality of establishing settlements in the territory occupied since 1967.
However, the central factor which has prompted Israeli settlers to leave the settlements in the West Bank, which the Zionist authors disregarded, is the spike in acts of Resistance and direct confrontations day after day. The threat of Resistance activity triggers a grave fear in the settler society: which is sensitivity to human losses. This is best evidenced by the directly proportional relationship between increased Resistance activity in the West Bank and Al-Quds and the trend of "reverse immigration".
According to IOF reports, the number of Resistance operations has consistently increased. From 2019 to 2020, they increased by 60%. From 2020 to 2021, they increased by 50%. The number of Resistance operations reached a total of 6000 operations, which included 1022 Molotov cocktail attacks, 61 shootings, and 18 stabbings, and the rest were discreet stone-throwing incidents.
The frequency of Resistance activity was sustained throughout 2022 and 2023: stripping the settlers of their sense of security and safety. A settler in the West Bank doesn't know peace and expects to be the next target of any Resistance operation: to be shot by a bullet, burned by a Molotov cocktail, stabbed to death, or hit by a stone.
One settler described leaving his house as a game of Russian roulette, in an interview for the Israeli Kan channel after the "Homesh" operation. "Leaving the house is like a game of Russian roulette; either you are killed, or you return home and the game repeats," he said.
The infighting among the enemy parties is an opportunity that should be exploited by the Resistance factions to amp up [operations] so that these settlements may turn into prison cells for settlers: so that they may constitute an economic and security burden for the enemy, especially since the secular parties speak of the economic burden of the settlements the government has to shoulder.
The Resistance in all its forms has achieved within 3 years what the authority's negotiations and security coordination has not achieved in 30 years.