This Feb. 7, 2017 file photo, shows Palestinian laborers work at a construction site in a new housing project in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
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The number of Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank has soared by nearly one-quarter over the past five years to over 420,000 people, a prominent settler leader said, presenting new population figures that he said put to rest the internationally backed idea of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. Yaakov Katz issued his report as the Israeli government is locked in negotiations with the Trump administration over understandings that are expected to include some curbs on settlement construction.According to Katz, the settler population hit 420,899 on Jan. 1, up 3.6 percent from 406,332 people a year earlier and a 23 percent increase from 342,414 at the beginning of 2012 .Katz's figures did not include settlement construction in occupied East Jerusalem, where more than 200,000 Israelis now live.For the past two decades, the international community has overwhelmingly backed the idea of a two-state solution as the best way of reaching peace in the region and rejected Israeli settlements as obstacles to peace.Just weeks before Trump took office, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution declaring settlements illegal.
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