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Israeli Report: Settlements Cover 42 Percent of West Bank

As Israel's prime minister visited the White House on Tuesday, a new report was issued in Israel about significant expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

The Israeli human rights group B'tselem says Jewish settlements control more than 42 percent of the West Bank. Although the actual buildings of the settlements cover only one percent of the region's territory, the report says the settlers have seized land beyond their immediate perimeters from Palestinians.

"Settlements very much are harming Palestinians in their daily life and their access to basic rights," said B'tselem Director Jessica Montell.

Israel has imposed a partial freeze on West Bank construction under pressure from the United States, which sees the settlements as an obstacle to peace. But Montell warns that the damage has already been done. She says the settlements have been growing three times as fast as the rest of Israel.

"In fact, you have a migration of Israelis to the settlements, a very rapid increase of the settler population," she said.

The Israeli government did not respond to the report. But critics call it an attempt to embarrass Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the United States.

"B'tselem has taken a very one-sided, political interpretation and on that basis makes what it claims are legal conclusions but, in fact, are simply political frameworks," said Gerald Steinberg, who heads NGO Monitor, an Israeli group that monitors non-governmental organizations.

Palestinians say the report is further proof that Israel is creating facts on the ground that are destroying the prospects of a two-state solution.