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The Council was founded in the 1970s as the successor to Gush Emunim ("Block of the Faithful"), an organization formed to promote Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which they regarded as the return of Jews to their Biblical homeland. The Council consists of 25 democratically elected mayors and ten community leaders, representing municipalities with a combined Jewish population of around 225,000. Its resettlement policy was criticised by the Sasson Report.  Its mandate is to assist Jewish settlements in every possible way. The Council works to improve security by (for instance) arranging the acquisition of bullet-proof ambulances and buses. The Council works with the Israeli government to provide roads, electricity, and water to the settlements.
In addition to municipal and security issues, the Council serves as the political arm of the Jewish residents of Yesha. The Council lobbies for their interests with the Knesset and the government. The Council carries on public relations campaigns for the settlements and has organized several large public protests.
In 2005 the Council led the protest campaign against the disengagement plan with peaceful mass protests: the human chain of 130,000, the Kfar Maimon march of 50,000, the Kotel rally of 70,000, and the Tel Aviv rally of 200,000. The council was praised by centrists for refraining from the use of violence—although some right-wing activists did resort to violence. It was also criticized by the right for failing to prevent the disengagement. In February 2005, Israel's Minister of Interior found that the Yesha Council had misappropriated funds provided by the Israeli government for this political campaign.