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Peace Not Walls

Israel controls 94% of the Jordan Valley, a potential breadbasket for a Palestinian state, new report says

A Palestinian family in the Jordan Valley cannot access their land due to Israeli restrictions on it.

Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has toured Israel and raised controversy in several arenas.  First, he said he would move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, a controversial move that others in the international community have not done.  Then he compared the Israeli economy to the Palestinian economy, implying that a superior Israeli culture accounted for the better Israeli economy.  Read a New York Times editorial about Mr. Romney’s visit.

Meanwhile, more and more sources are pointing out how much the Palestinian economy is decimated by the Israeli occupation of its land and resources.  In a new report, On the Brink: Israeli Settlements and their Impact on the Jordan Valley, Oxfam points out that the Jordan Valley, which could be a potential breadbasket for the Palestinian economy, is actually almost totally controlled (94%) by the Israeli government, settlements and infrastructure.  From the report:


The Jordan Valley, located in the eastern part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), makes up 30 per cent of the West Bank (see Map 1 on page 7). Requisitions and expropriations of Palestinian land by the Israeli authorities continue to destroy the livelihoods of Palestinians living in the area and, unless action is taken, there are strong indications that the situation will only get worse. The Israeli government recently announced proposals and policies for the expansion of settlements, which, if implemented, will further threaten the living conditions and human rights of Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley, undermining efforts to bring peace and prosperity to the OPT and Israel.

Only 6 per cent of the land in the Jordan Valley is currently available for Palestinian use and development.1 While the Israeli settlements there have developed modernised agribusinesses that produce crops for high-value export to the European Union (EU) and international markets, Palestinian farmers – most of whom are smallholders – face restrictions that severely hamper their ability to sell their produce locally, regionally, or internationally.

Development is further constrained because Palestinian families and businesses, and even EU donors and aid agencies, find it nearly impossible to gain permits to build homes, toilets, wells, animal pens, or other vital infrastructure for local communities. Less than 1 per cent of „Area C‟ (the 60 percent of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control where nearly all of the Jordan Valley is located) has been planned for Palestinian development2 by the Israeli Civil Administration,3 and 94 per cent of permits have been rejected in recent years.4 Essential structures built without development plans and hard-to-obtain permits are frequently demolished in contravention of international law.

It is estimated that if Israeli restrictions on Palestinian development were removed, an additional 50 sq/km of the Jordan Valley could be cultivated, potentially adding $1bn a year to the Palestinian economy, or 9 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).5

Read full Oxfam report:  ON THE BRINK: Israeli settlements and their impact on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley.

New report highlights differences in treatment of Israelis and Palestinians in the Jordan Valley

Ma'an Report on Jordan Valley

A new report by the Ma'an Development Center details the unequal treatment and conditions for Palestinians compared with Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley.

A new report by the Ma’an Development Center describes the vast difference in treatment and development of Palestinian villages and illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley.  From the report:

“The Jordan Valley is approximately 15-20 kilometers wide and, at 1,700 square kilometers, covers around 28.5% of the West Bank. The rich agricultural land, temperate climate, and abundant water resources offer enormous agricultural, economic and political potential for the Palestinian people.

However, this potential has been denied to the Palestinian citizens of the Jordan Valley by the policies of the Israeli military occupation and the continuing illegal expansion of Israel’s civilian settlements. In fact, the first civilian settlements in the West Bank were built in the Jordan Valley. Throughout the years of occupation, the Israeli government began actively promoting the settlement enterprise by offering a number of far-reaching economic and social benefits to those Israelis that emigrated to the illegal settlements.

Consequently, Jordan Valley settlements have grown at a steady rate, aided by governmental aid that expanded important settlement infrastructure and enriched many individual settlers. In 1993, the implementation of the Oslo Accords allowed Israel to strengthen its means of oppression in the region; the Oslo Accords designated 95% of the Jordan Valley as Area C, temporarily legitimizing full Israeli military and civil control for the inhabitants of the region.

Although there are currently 56,000 Palestinians and only 9,400 Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley, the living standards of the latter group are vastly superior. While the Israeli settlers benefit from generous aid from the Israeli government, Palestinians are nearly completely prevented from any sort of development in 95% of the Jordan Valley. Consequently, neighboring Palestinian and Israeli settler communities provide a stark and telling juxtaposition that demonstrates the racial discrimination that guides Israeli policy in the Jordan Valley. By directly subsidizing settlements’ growth, expansion, and development while completely prohibiting even the most basic of services to Palestinians, Israel has ensured that the Palestinians cannot overcome the discriminatory gap in the quality of life between the two populations.”

The report compares Palestinian villages and Israeli settlements and describes the legal procedures governing both.  It highlights the unequal treatment given to Palestinians compared with the Israeli settlers and concludes:

“The shocking differences between the quality of life in Palestinian villages and Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley are obvious manifestations of the decades-old Israeli policy to remove Palestinians from their own land. By refusing to care for the Palestinians under military rule while also refusing to allow the PNA access to these vulnerable communities, Israel is forcing Palestinians to depopulate an important piece of land that is essential to the viability of a future Palestinian state.

At the same time, the Israeli government has ensured the viability and sustainability of the settlements in the Jordan Valley by directly subsidizing their infrastructure, employment, and social services. All of this brings one to the conclusion that the State of Israel, through its settlement enterprise, is actively protecting the extravagant lifestyle of Israeli Jews in the occupied territories at the expense of the basic human rights of Palestinians. Only a complete reversal of policy with appropriate reparations for lost economic activity and community services will begin to adequately address the gross injustice that has continued for over forty years.”