Jewish Settlers on West Bank to Triple over the Next 3 Years

A government official told the Knesset’s Economic Committee today that the number of Jewish settlers on the West Bank will be tripled over the next three years. The Jewish population will reach 75,000, according to Michael Dekel, Deputy Minister of Agriculture.

Dekel said interest in settling on the West Bank was rising, not only among the traditional supporters of a “Greater Israel” such as the Orthodox Gush Emunim, but among Israelis who want to improve their housing and quality of life. He said trade unions and employers were interested in establishing new settlements for specific groups of workers and there were government plans in that direction.

The Likud government heavily subsidizes housing for Jewish settlers on the West Bank where homes cost a fraction of what they cost in Israel. The aggressive settlement policy has brought Israel sharp rebukes from Washington on grounds that it undermines the peace process.

One of the main points of President Reagan’s Middle East peace proposals, announced September 1, was a call on Israel to immediately freeze settlement activity in the occupied territories. That was promptly rejected by Premier Menachem Begin.

In another development it was announced today that a new college will be established at the religious settlement of Kedumim on the West Bank to serve the Jewish population in the territory. It will be affiliated with Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, an Orthodox-sponsored institution.

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