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Israel trying to push Palestinians out of Jordan Valley, says report
Last Updated: May 13, 2011
TEL AVIV // By exploiting the land, water resources and tourist sites of the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea areas, Israel is trying to annex the territory, an Israeli human rights group said yesterday.
Such exploitation of the strip of land on the eastern part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank helps Israel maintain its authority over the area's borders and prevent them from falling under the control of the Palestinians, according to the group, B'Tselem, and other analysts.
"The issue is who controls the borders of the future Palestinian state," said Neve Gordon, a political-science professor at Israel's Ben-Gurion University. "Israel does not trust the Palestinian Authority to control the area and ensure that arms or people from Iran or Afghanistan don't enter."
Mr Gordon said that Israel's expansion of settlements in the area and its increasing use of its agricultural resources was aimed at encouraging Palestinians to leave.
B'Tselem said: "Israel has instituted a regime that massively exploits the resources of the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea, far more than elsewhere in the West Bank, demonstrating its intention: to de facto annex the area."
According to B'Tselem, Israel violates international law by taking over most of the water sources in the area and allocating them to Jewish settlements. The group said that international law prohibits the exploitation of natural resources in occupied territory.
Israel controls 78 per cent of the area, including major tourist destinations such as the northern shores of the Dead Sea. The area under Israeli control includes private Palestinian land that it seized and declared as closed military zones, nature reserves and state land.
About 65,000 Palestinians and 9,400 Jewish settlers live in the region. The settlements pump 45 million cubic metres of water - most of it for agricultural use - compared with 31 million by the Palestinians.
"Due to the water shortage, Palestinians have been forced to neglect farm land that used to be cultivated and switch to growing less profitable crops," B'Tselem wrote in the report "Dispossession and Exploitation" that was released yesterday.
The Israeli actions are hampering Palestinian leaders' economic plans for the area. The Palestinian Authority views the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea as a key commercial and transportation centre with Middle Eastern countries, according to B'Tselem. It added that Israel also wants the area to become a centre for agricultural exports.
B'Tselem quoted a World Bank report that said that if Israel allowed the Palestinian Authority to use additional water resources in the West Bank, then the share of agriculture, the main sector of the Palestinian economy,- would rise to 22 per cent of gross domestic product from the current 12 per cent.
Israel occupied the Jordan Valley along with the rest of the West Bank after it conquered the territory in the 1967 Middle East War. It has since allowed the construction of some 120 settlements in the area, drawing anger from Palestinians and condemnation from the international community. Palestinians want their future state to include the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as the Gaza Strip.
Successive Israeli governments have considered the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea as areas over which the country must keep its control, mainly for security reasons, the report said.
Israel's view of the region's importance emerged from a plan submitted by a senior government minister after the 1967 war. The plan called for the Jordan river to serve as the strategic buffer zone between Israel and the so-called Eastern Front, a potential coalition of the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi armies, BTselem said.
The area's Jewish settlements were to serve as "permanent advance-position lookouts" that could alert the military to a sudden attack and even attempt to delay the enemy's advance, the report said.
Governments from both the Israeli right and centre-left have opposed withdrawing from the Jordan Valley. The current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared during a visit to the area in March that the army "must remain along the Jordan river in any future agreement".
The Palestinians have rejected that idea and have suggested an international force establish a presence in the area.
The Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment on the report. B'Tselem said that it had also submitted a copy of the document to the justice ministry, which also declined to comment.
[BGU] Oren Yiftachel, [COMAS] Orna Ben-Naftaly, [HUJ] Motty Perry and Yuval Shany "Dispossession and Exploitation: Israel's Policy in the Jordan Valley & Northern Dead Sea"
B'Tselem board members
Co-chairs: Oren Yiftachel, Professor of political geography and urban planning, Ben-Gurion University, and Gilad Barnea, Attorney, Administrative and Constitutional Law, appearing before the Supreme Court and other tribunals
Jabir Asaqla, Associate Director, Shatil
Orna Ben-Naftaly, Head of the Law and Culture Division and the International Law Division, the Law School, the College of Management Academic Studies
Rachel Benziman, Director, Financial Sustainability for Social Change, former executive director of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel
Elias Khouri, Attorney in private practice who specializes in real-estate law and administrative law.
Vered Madar: Ph.D. Candidate, Jewish and comparative Folklore, Hebrew University
Motty Perry, Professor of Economics, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a founder of Peace Now and signer of the Air Force pilot's letter.
Michael Rivkine, a human-rights activist and political prisoner in the former Soviet Union, has continued his human-rights activity since immigrating to Israel 22 years ago.
Yuval Shany, Professor, Hersch Lauterpacht Chair in Public International Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
David Zonsheine, CEO, Zooee Software
May 2011, Comprehensive report
Dispossession and Exploitation: Israel's Policy in the Jordan Valley & Northern Dead Sea
The Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area contains the largest land reserves in the West Bank. The area covers 1.6 million dunams, which constitute 28.8 percent of the West Bank. Sixty-five thousand Palestinians, live in 29 communities, and an estimated additional 15,000 Palestinians reside in dozens of small Beduin communities. Some 9,400 settlers live in the 37 settlements (including seven outposts) in the area.
Israel has instituted in this area a regime that intensively exploits its resources, to an extent greater than elsewhere in the West Bank, and which demonstrates its intention: de facto annexation of the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area to the State of Israel.
Taking control of land
Greenhouses of settlements next to ‘Ein al-Bida, in the Jordan Valley. Photo: Eyal Hareuveni, B'Tselem, 23 March 2011.
Israel has used various means to take control of most of the land in the area, as follows:
- Thousands of dunams were taken from Palestinian refugees and used to build the first settlements there, beginning in 1968 and extending throughout the 1970s. This, in violation of a military order.
- By legal manipulation, Israel has enlarged the inventory of “state land” in the area, such that 53.4 percent of the area, four times greater than pre-1967, is now deemed state land.
- Israel has declared 45.7 percent of the area military firing zones, although they are situated next to main traffic arteries, alongside settlements’ built-up areas and farmland, or include land of settlements that is under cultivation.
- Israel has closed some 20 percent of the land by declaring them nature reserves, although only a small section of them has been developed and made suitable for visitors. Two-thirds of the nature reserves areas are also areas of military firing zones.
- Israel has seized lands in the northern Jordan Valley for the Separation Barrier and has placed 64 landmine fields near the route of the Jordan River. The army itself contends the landmines are no longer required for security purposes.
Using these means, Israel has taken control of 77.5 percent of the land and has prevented Palestinians from building on or using the land or remaining there. Twelve percent of the area has been allocated for settlements, including the entire northern shore of the Dead Sea. Israel’s policy has cut up the Palestinian spatial sphere and isolated Palestinian communities in the area. In the last two years, the Civil Administration has repeatedly demolished structures in the area’s Beduin communities, although some of them were established before 1967.
Taking control of water sources
The dry ‘Ein Uja spring. Photo: Eyal Hareuveni, B'Tselem, 23 March 2011.
Israel has taken control of most of the water sources in the area and has earmarked them for the almost exclusive use of the settlers.
Most Israeli water drillings in the West Bank – 28 of the 42 drillings – are located in the Jordan Valley. These drillings provide Israel with some 32 million m3 a year, most of which is allocated to the settlements. The annual allocation of water to the area’s 9,400 settlers from the drillings, the Jordan River, treated wastewater, and artificial water reservoirs is 45 million m3. The water allocated to the settlements has enabled them to develop intensive-farming methods and to work the land year round, with most of the produce being exported. The water allocation to the settlements is almost one-third the quantity of water that is accessible to the 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.
Israel’s control of the water sources in the area has caused some Palestinian wells drying up and has led to a drop in the quantity of water that can be produced from other wells and from springs. In comparison, in 2008, Palestinians pumped 31 million m3, which is 44 percent less than Palestinians produced in the area prior to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of 1995. Due to the water shortage, Palestinians were forced to neglect farmland that had been in cultivation and switch to growing less profitable crops. In the Jericho governorate, the amount of land used for agriculture is the lowest among the Palestinian governorates in the West Bank – 4.7 percent compared to an average of 25 percent in the other governorates.
Israel’s control of most of the land area also prevents equal distribution of water resources to the Palestinian communities in the area; it also prevents the movement of water to Palestinian communities outside the area. Water consumption in Beduin communities is equivalent to the quantity that the UN has set as the minimal quantity needed to survive in humanitarian-disaster areas.
Restrictions on movement
Tayasir Checkpoint, in the Jordan Valley. Photo: Keren Manor, 26 December 2010, Activestills.org.
In the framework of the easing of restrictions on movement in the West Bank that was carried out in 2009, Israel did not eliminate the movement restrictions in the Jordan Valley, despite the security calm in the area. Israel still operates four checkpoints in the Jordan Valley – Tayasir, Hamra, Ma’ale Efrayim, and Yitav. At these checkpoints, only Palestinian-owned vehicles that Israel recognizes as belonging to residents of the area are allowed to pass.
The restrictions on movement seriously impair Palestinian life, since most of the educational facilities and medical clinics that are supposed to serve the local residents are situated outside the area.
Restrictions on building
Huts demolished by the Civil Administration in al-Farsiya, in the Jordan Valley. Photo: Atef Abu a-Rub, B'Tselem, 19 July 2010.
Israel’s planning policy in the Jordan Valley makes it impossible for Palestinians to build and develop their communities. The Civil Administration has prepared plans for only a tiny fraction of the Palestinian communities. Furthermore, these plans are nothing more than demarcation plans, which do not allocate land for new construction and development. For example, the plan for al-Jiftlik, the largest community in Area C (the area that is under complete Israeli control), left 40 percent of the built-up area of the village outside its borders; as a result, the houses of many families are in danger of demolition. The plan for al-Jiftlik is smaller in land area than the plan issued for the Maskiyyot settlement, although al-Jiftlik has 26 times as many residents.
Taking control of tourist sites
Israeli bathing beach Bianqini, on the northern Dead Sea. Photo: Keren Manor, 13 March 2011, Activestills.org.
Israel has taken control of most of the prominent tourist sites in the area – the northern shore of the Dead Sea, Wadi Qelt, the Qumran caves, the springs of the ‘Ein Fashkha reserve, and the Qasr Alyahud site (where John the Baptist baptized Jesus). Israeli entities administer these sites. Israel also limits tourist access to Jericho, channeling tourists to the southern entrance to the city. As a result, few tourists visiting Jericho city spend the night there, resulting in heavy losses for the tourist industry in the city.
Exploitation of natural resources
Production room at AHAVA, which produces cosmetics based on the Dead Sea’s high-mineral-content mud. Photo: Keren Manor, 13 March 2011, Activestills.org.
Israel enables entrepreneurs in Israel to exploit the area’s resources. The Ahava cosmetics firm, in Kibbutz Mizpe Shalem, produces products from the high-mineral-content mud of the northern Dead Sea. An Israeli quarry next to the settlement Kokhav Hashahar produces building materials. Also, Israel has established facilities in the Jordan Valley for treating wastewater and for burying waste from Israel and from settlements.
International law prohibits the establishment of settlements in occupied territory and exploitation of the resources of occupied territory. B'Tselem calls on Israel to evacuate the settlements, to enable Palestinian access to all the lands that have been closed to them, and to allow them to use the water sources for their purposes. In addition, Israel must remove the restrictions on movement in the area and enable construction and development in the Palestinian communities. Israel must also close down the enterprises that profit from the minerals and other natural resources in the area, and it must also shut down the facilities for disposal of Israeli waste.
Full Report: http://www.btselem.org/Download/201105_Dispossession_and_Exploitation_Eng.pdf