File - An Israeli flag is seen in front of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
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The population of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank has surged during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's years in office, growing at more than twice the pace of Israel's overall population, according to newly obtained official figures.From the beginning of 2009 until the beginning of 2014 – Netanyahu returned to office in March 2009 – the Jewish settler population in the West Bank grew 23 percent, to 355,993 people.The rate of settler population growth slowed slightly under Netanyahu, from 31 percent during the previous five years under his predecessors Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. In a situation that challenges Israel's claims to being a democracy, the more than 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank cannot vote for the Israeli government that controls much of their lives, while Jewish settlers can.The number of settlers living beyond the barrier line, according to the new numbers, is about 10 times greater than the settler population of Gaza – nearly 82,000 settlers at the beginning of 2014, compared to about 68,000 five years before.Including Ariel, more than 100,000 settlers would potentially have to be evacuated.
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