Jewish settlements cover 42 percent of the West Bank, according to a report released Tuesday by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.
According to B'Tselem's latest report titled "By Hook and By Crook: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank", the West Bank has undergone a radical transformation over the past eighteen years due to settlement expansions that have been a major obstacle to peace.
"Some half a million Israelis are now living over the Green Line: more than 300,000 in 121 settlements and about one hundred outposts, which control 42 percent of the land area of the West Bank, and the rest in twelve neighborhoods that Israel established on land it annexed to the Jerusalem Municipality," the report said.
"To encourage Israelis to move to the settlements, Israel created a mechanism for providing benefits and incentives to settlements and settlers, regardless of their economic condition, which often was financially secure."
The organization released the report just before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington.
B'Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli said that release date had been set in May, when the date of Netanyahu's meeting with Obama was unknown. "We decided not to change the release date, because we have an obligation to inform the people about Israel's obligations," Michaeli said. "We hope that human rights issues, including the implications of the settlements, will be on the table at the meeting."
According to the report, the municipal boundaries of the Jewish settlements average ten times more than their built-up areas. B'Tselem has accused the Israeli government of violating prior commitments made to the US as part of the 2003 road map.
"Israel was supposed to begin implementing its road map obligations in May 2003," the report notes. "Since 2004, however, due to extensive construction in the settlements and the generous incentives Israel offers settlers, the settler population (not including those in east Jerusalem) grew by 28%, from 235,263 to 301,200 persons by the end of 2009."