>> When foreign ministers from 20 countries meet in Paris later this week to discuss efforts to resume Middle East peace. One of the issues that will be on their agenda is, Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem. I'm Luke Baker, the bureau chief of Reuters in Jerusalem.
Over the past half century, Israel has built up a vast network of settlements in the West Bank in east Jerusalem, which it seized in the 1967 Middle East war. There are now more than 550,000 Jewish settlers living in more than 200 settlements throughout the territory. From the point of view of many foreign diplomats, this settlement enterprise, which is cost an estimated 30 billion dollars.
Just for the construction of the last 30 or 40 years, has reached the point of being irreversible. What they mean by that is, that the political pressure to continue expanding the settlement. And the deep roots that settlers now have across that territory. Will make it next to impossible to ever withdraw from a large part of the settlement project.
One of the leading proponents of the settlements, Peace Now. Estimates that at least 150,000 Jews would have to be withdrawn from the west bank, if a Palestinian state is ever to emerge. That's a vast removal of people. If you compare it just to the removal of settlements in Gaza in 2005, which caused so much consternation and so much soul searching in Israeli society and only 8,500 settlers were withdrawn then.