December 27, 2006
Rami Almeghari-IMEMC & Agencies
Today, about 40 British Jews will arrive in Israel, bringing the number of British Jewish émigrés this year up to 700, according to the Jewish Agency, a group responsible for encouraging Jews worldwide to move to Israel.
Israeli settlement activities on the occupied Palestinian territories have been of major concern to the Palestinian population, as the more settlements Israel builds, the more Israeli settlers from various worldwide regions migrate to these settlements.
According to official Israeli statistics, the Israeli population topped 7 million recently, one third of whom are Palestinians living in Israel.
Many analysts believe that the demographic issue has increasingly become a key factor in Israeli politics this year, a thing that has prompted former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to evacuate 8,000 Israeli Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and order construction of thousands of new housing units in major West Bank settlements.
Natural population growth in Israel is 1.2 per cent annually, while that in the occupied Palestinian territories is 3.94.
But the growth rates of the two populations are in fact about equal, due to a massive influx of Jewish immigrants into Israel. Since 1993, one million Jews have immigrated to Israel, many of them from Russia and other Soviet bloc countries following the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to the Israeli government's statistics on immigration.
But this year's increase in immigrants is not from the Soviet bloc countries, whose immigration into Israel decreased by 22 percent this year, but from the US and UK, whose rate of immigration into Israel is at the highest it has been since 1983.
The Jewish Agency, along with the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization, formed five years ago, report helping 10,000 North American Jews to immigrate to Israel over the past five years.
Since 1967, Israel has been constructing Jewish settlements on the occupied Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem. In the West Bank, approximately 250,000 settlers live in over 140 illegal housing developments, and an additional 240,000 settlers live in illegally constructed settlements in East Jerusalem. Yesterday, the Israeli government endorsed a new settlement in the Ghour area of West Bank under the pretext of housing settlers who were evacuated (with full compensation) from the Gaza Strip settlement of Ghosh Qatif last year.