TUBAS – Israeli forces on Wednesday morning detained a young Palestinian man in the village of Ibziq in the northern Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank and confiscated a tractor and a private vehicle in the area.
Muataz Bisharat, an official who monitors settlement activity in the Jordan Valley, told Ma’an that Israeli forces, escorted by several Israeli Civil Administration jeeps, detained Mahmoud Muhammad al-Hroub, 23, and confiscated a tractor belonging to his father and a vehicle belonging to Hayil Turkman.
The confiscated vehicles were taken to the Nahal military site in the al-Maleh area of the Jordan valley, Bisharat said.
A spokesperson from Israel’s civil administration declined to comment on the incident.
Bisharat highlighted that Israeli forces had confiscated at least three tractors from the surrounding areas, which are located in Area C — the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli security and civilian control — during the past two months.
Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley regularly face evacuations and interruption due to Israeli military exercises on or near their land. The Jordan Valley district of Tubas is one of the occupied West Bank’s most important agricultural centers.
The majority of the Jordan Valley is under full Israeli military control, while at least 44 percent of the total land in the Jordan Valley has been reappropriated by Israeli forces for military purposes and training exercises.
According to the Palestinian nonprofit the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), using data from the Palestine Ministry of Wall and Colonization Affairs, the group reported that more than 400,000 dunams (98,842 acres) of the 720,000 dunams (177,916 acres) that make up the total area of the Jordan Valley has been transformed into closed military and firing zones, with at least 27,000 dunams (6,672 acres) confiscated for illegal Israeli settlement building.
TUBAS – Israeli troops on Sunday morning evacuated 14 Palestinian families from their houses in the al-Ras al-Ahmar area of Khirbet Atuf village east of Tubas in the northern Jordan Valley area of the West Bank, local sources said.
Local sources reported that the “Israeli occupation” told the 14 families that Israeli forces will be carrying out military drills in the area for five days.
During the five days of military exercises, Palestinian residents in the area will be evacuated for six hours every day, local sources told Ma’an.
The evacuation was done under the argument that evacuating protects residents.
Earlier this year military drills in Tubas resulted in a fire that swept across some 3,000 to 4,000 dunams (750 to 1,000 acres) of Jordan Valley farmland.
The majority of the Jordan Valley is under full Israeli military control, despite being within the West Bank.The district of Tubas is one of the occupied West Bank’s most important agricultural centers.
According to the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, more than 15,000 dunams (3,700 acres) of land in the Tubas district have been confiscated by Israel for military bases with a further 8,000 dunams (2,000 acres) seized for illegal Israeli settlements.
BETHLEHEM – Israeli forces destroyed 27 homes in the occupied Jordan Valley in January, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, leaving 147 people homeless.
Nearly half of those displaced were children and 65 people lived in communities that had been demolished more than once by Israel, B’Tselem said.
On Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it would stop providing tents to Palestinians whose homes had been demolished in the Jordan Valley because Israel would often confiscate them.
Last week, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories criticized Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley.
“I am deeply concerned about the ongoing displacement and dispossession of Palestinians … along the Jordan Valley where the number of structures demolished more than doubled in the last year,” James Rawley said in a statement.
“This activity not only deprives Palestinians of access to shelter and basic services, it also runs counter to international law.”
The number of structures demolished by the Israeli authorities in the Jordan Valley in 2013 more than doubled, from 192 in 2012 to 393 in 2013.
Israel has said in recent negotiations that it is not willing to compromise security in the Jordan Valley, which forms a third of the occupied West Bank.
Over 90 percent of the Jordan Valley is designated as Area C, with illegal settlements controlling up to 50 percent of the land area.
Popular Struggle Coordination Committee | February 1, 2014
Jordan Valley, Occupied Palestine – Hundreds of Palestinians announced today the launching of “Melh Al-Ard” (Salt of the Earth) campaign by reviving the village of Ein Hijleh in the Jordan Valley on land belonging to the Orthodox Church and St. Gerassimos monastery. The campaign is launched in refusal of Israeli policies aimed at Judaizing and annexing the Jordan Valley.
Campaign organizers and participants declared,
We, the daughters and sons of Palestine, announce today the revival of Ein Hijleh village as part of Melh Al-Ard campaign in the Jordan Valley. The action aims at refusing the political status quo, especially given futile negotiations destroying the rights of our people for liberation and claim to their land.
Accordingly we have decided to revive an old Palestinian Canaanite village in the Jordan Valley next to so called “Route 90″ linking the Dead Sea to Bisan. The action is part of a continuous step against the Israeli occupation’s plan to take over and annex the Jordan Valley. This step is a popular act against Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people and the constant Judaization of the land.
From the village of Ein Hijleh, we the participants announce that we hold tight to our right to all occupied Palestinian lands. We refuse Kerry’s Plan that will establish a disfigured Palestinian state and recognizes the Israeli entity as a Jewish State. Such a state will turn Palestinians living inside lands occupied in 1948 into residents and visitors that can be deported at anytime. We affirm the unity of our people and their struggle wherever they are for our inalienable rights.
Ein Hijleh village is located in what is called “Area C” in the Jordan Valley, which is under threat of annexation by Israeli policies and Kerry’s plan. Therefore, we have decided to take charge and call for a national action to protect the Jordan Valley and put an end to the constant Judaization of Palestinian lands.
Based on our support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) we call upon our friends and international solidarity groups to stand with the demands of the Palestinian people and boycott all Israeli companies including Israeli factories and companies that work in the Jordan Valley and profit from Palestinian natural resources.
For instance, we ask you to boycott Mehadrin, the largest Israeli exporter of fruits and vegetables, some of which grown in the Jordan Valley. In addition, Hadiklaim, that exports dates produced by Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley. We also call on you to boycott both Ahava and Premier, cosmetics companies that use Dead Sea minerals to produce its products.
Our Palestinian village is located near Deir Hijleh or St. Gerassimos monastery, on land that is property of the Orthodox monastery. The land mainly consists of few deserted old houses and palm trees. The white soil is highly concentrated with salt, and the area is surrounded by lands taken and used by Israeli settlers. An Israeli base is separating the land from Deir Hijleh monastery which owns a property of about 1000 dunams, some of which are taken by Israeli forces for the excuse of “security reasons.”
The campaign, “Melh Al-Ard” (Salt of the Earth), quotes a phrase from the bible, Matthew 13:5, which says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “The name of our village, Ein Hijleh, is based on the original Canaanite name and the water spring (Ein) present there.
We the sons and daughters of Ein Hijleh call upon our people to join the struggle to revive the village and protect our rights, history, culture, and land. Daughters and sons of Palestine, be the salt of this earth and stay steadfast on it.
The secretary of the PLO Executive Committee has revealed the details of John Kerry’s plan for the Israel-Palestine negotiations. Yasser Abed Rabbo spoke to London’s Al-Hayat newspaper.
According to Abed Rabbo, the US Secretary of State’s proposal includes Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; establishing part of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine; resolving the refugee problem in accordance with the vision of former US President Bill Clinton; maintaining Israeli control of major settlement blocs and leasing the others back to Israel; Israel’s control over border crossings and air space; and the presence of US-Israel-Jordan-Palestinian security forces on the border. “The Israelis would also have the right of ‘hot pursuit’ of fugitives or suspected criminals in the Palestinian state,” he revealed. “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected these ideas because he wants to carve out the land he wants and refuses to discuss the Jerusalem issue. He also refuses the intervention of any other party in security matters, even America.”
The PLO official pointed out that this way of thinking was essentially unacceptable. “We Palestinians have been more than clear when it comes to this matter. We have stated many times that we reject the concept of a so-called national homeland for Jews in historic Palestine or the concept of a ‘Greater Israel’. Netanyahu has expressed that he not only wants to legitimise the Zionist national narrative and the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 but also Israel’s ongoing settlement projects, which aim to achieve the Zionist dream of a Greater Israel.”
As for security arrangements, Abed Rabbo said that there is talk of potential security arrangements and the standards by which these arrangements will be run. “They will last for many years and are supposedly subject to improved Palestinian security performance. However, this will ultimately still be controlled by Israel, which will maintain control even though America has pledged that it will remain involved as these arrangements are made and see to it that Israel withdraws from certain areas including the Jordan Valley.”
Such security arrangements, he claimed, will maintain Israel’s security strongholds on mountain tops and in Palestinian airspace. Israel will maintain the right to fly over Palestinian land should it feel an impending security threat. “At this point, any semblance of Palestinian sovereignty or geographic unity has been completely torn apart”, warned Abed Rabbo.
Settlements, Jerusalem and refugees
He pointed out that there have been numerous discussions about Israel’s vast settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank. Rumours suggest that Israel wants to rent out settlement units to settlers in the event that a Palestinian state is established. What this means, he claims, is that the settlements will remain as they are and settlers will continue to live there as Israeli citizens with special status in the Palestinian state.
“According to Israel, Jerusalem is not up for negotiation and will remain under full Israeli control as its undivided capital,” he explained. “There is rather mysterious general talk about Palestinians establishing their future capital in Jerusalem but, from Israel’s point of view, Jerusalem extends from Ramallah to Bethlehem to the Jordan Valley border. Thus, it could easily be argued that Abu Dis or Kufr Aqab could be named as the future Palestinian capital.”
As far as Palestinian refugees are concerned, said the PLO official, there are four possible outcomes, as envisioned by President Clinton; one of them suggests the return of a limited number of refugees, as stated in Israel law.
The Palestinian Authority’s position
According to Abed Rabbo, the Palestinian Authority cannot accept any of these potential solutions, especially given that Netanyahu is believed to insist on there being no Arab presence in Jerusalem and rejects outright the refugees’ right of return.
“Netanyahu does not want the involvement of any third party, American or non-American, in any of his security arrangements in the Jordan Valley even if it remains under Israeli control. He wants all decisions to be Israeli decisions and judging by our previous attempts in the past, any of our attempts to abide by a plan or time table will be disrupted completely by Israel”, he noted. Israel and America claim that the Palestinian people will be able to get territory equivalent to the West Bank’s 1967 borders through land swaps. “I do not understand how this is possible with settlement blocs, Israeli security zones and the apartheid wall, which divides the eastern and western regions of the West Bank completely. We are supposed to believe that we can gain territory through land swaps? This is impossible.”
The PLO veteran described those Israelis who suggest “people swaps” to accompany land swaps as “racist”, pointing out that the organisation would not accept any population exchanges.
“Palestinian Arabs living inside Israel are not settlers,” he stressed. “They did [not] come to Israel through an invasion or by migration. They are the owners of that land and no one can uproot them from their homes. Swapping settlers for Israeli-Arabs would mean swapping Israeli citizens for Israeli citizens; how is this possible?” For Abed Rabbo, this shows that the Israeli government does not consider Arabs to be true citizens of the state. “They regard them as second or third class citizens with no rights, which is absolutely racist. They seek to ethnically cleanse that territory more than they want to swap land.”
That is the framework under which most ideas were discussed, said Abed Rabbo. “We do not have any official documentation to prove it but the information gets leaked from Israel in one way or another.”
Reasons for Israeli refusal
He is not surprised that Israel rejects most proposals for the simple reason that it wants to carve out as much land as possible from the occupied West Bank and maintain absolute control, especially in security zones. This would give Israel the “right” to intervene to protect settlements, which would also mean that it has control of the road networks leading to them.
“We are being confronted with an ultimatum,” he added. “We are not standing in front of two different options with various formulas that we can accept or reject. However, any attempt to sweeten the language of these agreements instead of criticising their prejudices will lead us to disaster.”
He ruled out any blame being attached to the Palestinians should Kerry’s plan fail. “The blame game does not concern us and we do not take it in our political consideration. Who will blame us for wanting to have our country based on 1967 borders, and to have East Jerusalem as our capital, and to have a fair and agreeable resolution for the refugee issue?”
Although John Kerry has “done his best” to make proposals acceptable to both sides, argues Abed Rabbo, it seems that he has read the Israeli position at the beginning and accepted the verbal, generic, vague and ambiguous assurances that Netanyahu usually offers to whoever he meets. “He must have interpreted them in some form and when he looked at the fine print realised that there are two different Israeli positions.”
As such, he believes, Netanyahu lured Kerry to discuss the issue of security first and Kerry fell for it, thinking that it will lead to a big breakthrough for the negotiations and will open the way for discussion of other issues. “To his surprise, he discovered that the Israelis want to use security as an excuse to justify their ambitions for expansion,” concluded Abed Rabbo. “This explains how and why we have reached the current impasse.”
Occupied Palestine – On Saturday 18th January during a peaceful protest in the Jordan Valley, 19-year-old Ahmad Walid Atatreh, a Palestinian activist and 24-year-old Sven W, a German activist who lives in Switzerland, were arrested and beaten after a march held in Jiftlik Adam Junction. Ahmad is a law student, studying at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem.
The march in Jiftlik was organized in protest against a legislation bill recently approved in the Knesset to annex the Jordan Valley to the current state of Israel. While the Israeli government declares that the move is purely for security reasons, the large number of illegal agricultural settlements and theft of Palestinian water rights demonstrate that the motives are largely economic.
Almost 95% of the Jordan Valley lies in Area C, under full Israeli civil and military control. Palestinian Bedouin herders suffer repeated demolitions of their homes and animal shelters, and water tanks are frequently confiscated. A large section of the area is reserved as a firing zone and residents are often forcibly removed from their homes to make way for military exercises.
Approximately 60 people gathered in the Jordan Valley and began a protest holding banners and chanting against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. As the march ended, Israeli forces invaded the area and began to arrest Palestinian demonstrators. Sven W and a British volunteer succeeded in stopping the detention of a Palestinian youth and in the process were both arrested by the Israeli army.
The two international activists were violently pushed to the ground by an Israeli soldier and handcuffed. The British activist managed to escape detention, whilst Sven was blindfolded and forced to kneel on the ground.
One Israeli soldier purposefully pushed Sven’s face in dirty water before taking him behind a military jeep and repeatedly kicking him in the ribs. Ahmad was also beaten after his arrest and received injuries to his knee. The British activist received a similar assault before escaping detention.
During the arrests, Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition into the air, and on several occasions pointed their rifles at protesters’ faces.
Sven and Ahmad were blindfolded for 3 hours and were driven to an Israeli military base. While they were blindfolded, Israeli forces attempted to intimidate and frighten the activists by pointing guns in their faces.
At the military base Sven was told he was a “terrorist” and was arrested because he “threw stones”.
Sven is committed to non-violent resistance and during this particular demonstration, no stones were thrown.
Both activists were taken to a ‘medical’ room in the military base where their blindfolds were briefly removed, although their handcuffs remained. Sven told the Israeli soldiers that he had a headache after being unable to see for such a long period of time, and also that his ribs were sore due to the beating he received after his arrest. According to Sven this information was noted down although Israeli forces did nothing to assist with his pain. During this time in the medical room, many Israeli soldiers entered and took pictures of both Sven and Ahmad using their mobile phones.
Ahmad and Sven were then blindfolded again and driven to a police station in the illegal settlement of Ariel, neither activist was given any information with regard to where they were being taken or allowed to contact legal representation. During this drive Israeli forces stopped the car, tightened Ahmad’s blindfold and stole a camera from Sven’s bag, using it to take pictures of the two blindfolded men.
When they arrived at Ariel, Sven was finally informed of the three charges against him, assaulting an Israeli soldier, attempting to steal a rifle from a soldier and blocking a highway and therefore ‘”endangering” lives (however at no moment was anyone blocking the main highway, activists were gathered at the side of the road). The same charges were also given to Ahmad and are completely fabricated for both activists.
Sven and Ahmad spent the night in Ariel police station along with five other Palestinian prisoners. The light was kept on all night with Israeli forces constantly entering the cell, ensuring that none of the prisoners were able to sleep. At one point Sven was woken by a police officer and told he would have court in the morning.
Under Israeli law internationals must be taken before a judge within 24 hours.
In the morning of the 19th, Sven repeatedly asked when he would be transferred for his court hearing and he was ignored by Israeli police. At this point neither Sven nor Ahmad were allowed to contact legal representation. Ahmad also requested to speak to his lawyer and was told that unless he gave information about the demonstration he would not be allowed to contact anyone.
At 5pm, Sven was transferred from Ariel police station to a terminal at Ben Gurion airport. He was never taken before a judge and was instead asked to sign a piece of paper saying he agreed to be deported to Germany, although he has been living in Switzerland for the last 4 years.
Sven refused to sign unless he was allowed to speak to legal representation. Finally he was allowed to make a phone call, though was unable to get through to his lawyer and therefore unwilling to sign the document.
Sven was transferred to a prison in Ramle, near Tel Aviv, which is where he currently resides. He is expected to be deported on Thursday. When Sven left the illegal settlement of Ariel, Ahmad was still imprisoned. He has now been transferred to Hadarim prison in Netanya and should attend Salem court within the next few days. However he has still not been allowed to contact his lawyer, the first time Ahmad will speak to him will be when he is taken before a judge.
When Sven is deported this week, he will be the third international activist in less than two weeks to be arrested and deported by Israeli forces. Vincent Mainville and Fabio Theodule were arrested on the 8th January and deported a week later. Their arrest was ruled illegal by an Israeli court in Jerusalem, although this did not stop their transfer to the immigration center.
Israeli authorities have seized emergency tents provided by the United Nations to shelter families whose homes were demolished by the army last week, according to a UN press release.
The Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA) reports that the release, issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories (OCHA), states that the tents were provided to the Bani Manieh families from Jiftlik, in Jericho, after the Israeli army demolished all their residential and livelihood structures on Wednesday.
13 structures, belonging to three families of the Bani Manieh community, were destroyed by the army, displacing 26 people, including 15 children.
The army claims that the area was a military training zone.
The Jordan Valley makes up about 29% of the West Bank, and Israel is simultaneously trying to empty the region of its Palestinian Arab citizens, as it attempts to keep control over the area in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
The Palestinians refuse to allow any Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley and assert that this land is vital to their economy and statehood.
JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israel rejects any US-proposed security concessions for the Jordan Valley, a cabinet member close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, as US Secretary John Kerry visited the Middle East.
“Security must remain in our hands. Anyone who proposes a solution in the Jordan Valley by deploying an international force, Palestinian police or technological means … does not understand the Middle East,” Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israeli public radio.
Steinitz’s comments came after three days of intense shuttle diplomacy by Kerry, who was trying to push a framework for final status talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
With a late April deadline looming for the negotiations that he kick-started in July after a three-year hiatus, Kerry has pledged to work even more intensively in the coming months.
US officials have refused to release any details of the proposed framework, and Kerry acknowledged it would not be agreed during this trip.
Palestinian hopes of having an international force brought in to help patrol the Jordan Valley under a peace deal had been sidelined, a Palestinian source told AFP Saturday.
Instead the US was proposing a mixed Israeli-Palestinian military presence to ensure security in the area, without setting a deadline when the Israeli troops would be withdrawn.
But Israel insists on maintaining a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley.
Kerry has said a peace treaty will deal with all the core issues dividing the two sides. These include the contours of a future Palestinian state, refugees, the fate of Jerusalem claimed by both as a capital, security, and mutual recognition.
Direct negotiations began in July between Israel and the Palestinians in a US-led attempt to restart the deadlocked peace process.
Israel has announced plans to build thousands of homes in illegal settlements across the West Bank over the course of the talks, inhibiting US efforts.
The Palestinian negotiating team resigned in protest against continued Israeli settlement construction in mid-November, dealing a major blow to negotiations between Israel and the PLO that had already been stalled.
Negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh told AFP at the time that they resigned in response to “increasing settlement building (by Israel) and the absence of any hope of achieving results,” following Netanyahu’s announcement that Israel would build 20,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank.
The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
Ma’an staff contributed to this report.
RAMALLAH — Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu has given instructions for the building of a wall along the borders with Jordan in the Jordan Valley, Hebrew press reported on Sunday.
Maariv daily said that the instructions were given for planning that wall, which would entail full Israeli control of the area.
The decision was taken despite the ongoing negotiations between Israel and the PA with the Jordan Valley being one of the negotiated issues.
The paper quoted Netanyahu as saying that one of the reasons for building the wall was fears of alleged influx of Syrian refugees from Jordan in addition to sending a message to the Palestinians who object to the presence of Israel on the Jordan Valley mainly that Israel does not intend to withdraw from the Jordan Valley in any future settlement.
As night descends in the Jordan Valley in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), a family in the village of Ras Al-Ahmar lights a small paraffin lamp in the tent they call home.
There is no electricity here and the nearby Palestinian villages are enveloped in darkness. The only visible cluster of light is from a nearby Israeli settlement.
Humanitarian agencies are well aware of the needs in this part of the West Bank but they face a challenge: play by the rules established by Israel or face the risk of having projects demolished.
Despite being outside the state of Israel, 90 percent of the Jordan Valley is under full Israeli civil and military control as part of Area C, a zone that covers 60 percent of the West Bank.
Palestinian communities here, among the poorest and most vulnerable in oPt, desperately need access to water, electricity, sanitation and other basic infrastructure.
But despite the needs, development organizations that try to improve living conditions in Area C say they find their ability to make any lasting impact hampered by Israeli restrictions and bureaucracy.
Like Palestinians, organizations that want to build basic service infrastructure such as houses, schools or water systems are required to submit an application for a permit to the Israeli authorities.
Often, these permits are not granted. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), between January 2000 and September 2007, over 94 percent of applications submitted by Palestinians to the Israeli authorities for building permits in Area C were denied.
“The permit regime is very confusing. There is no clarity about the status of an application, whether paperwork has been received, if it is complete,” Willow Heske, media lead for Oxfam in oPt, told IRIN. “Agencies have sometimes waited for two years only to get a rejection that comes without any explanation.”
“A few years ago we put in plans to build a water reservoir in Al-Jiftlik, to provide half of Al-Jiftlik with running water,” said Heske.
“The reservoir was considered a `building’ and we didn’t get the permit. So we moved to a plan B which still involved setting up a reservoir and piping system but above rather than below ground. This too was not accepted. So as a last resort we had to go back to distributing water tanks. And of course people were frustrated and disappointed.”
Challenging the Occupation
Some NGOs, among them Palestinian organizations like Ma’an Development Centre (MDC), believe that adhering to the permit regime helps legitimize the occupation, and choose to ignore the rules altogether.
“If you’re playing within the rules of the occupation then you are legitimizing it. We don’t seek permits from the Israelis. If we put in a permit request we would likely get denied,” MDC project manager Chris Keeler told IRIN. “And also because of a moral stance. We don’t think that a Palestinian NGO should be seeking permission from Israel to be building on Palestinian lands.”
For international organizations, it’s not only the possibility of having a permit denied that affects their work, but also the multiple ways in which the Israeli state bureaucracy hinders their work by issuing “stop work” orders to existing projects, refusing to issue work visas, or refusing to renew existing work permits for foreign staff.
Even MDC finds that it must sometimes work within existing framework restrictions.
“There are houses all over the Jordan Valley that need renovations,” said Keeler. “If we do a project in some of the communities in the north, it would likely get destroyed. So we work a lot in Al-Jiftlik and Al-Fasayil. We need permits in those places too, but because they are more established communities, there is less risk that they will get destroyed. A lot of donors want reassurance that structures we build will not be torn down.”
IRIN was unable to get a response from the Israeli government despite repeated attempts, but in the past the Israeli government spokesperson has said Israeli policy is shaped by security concerns.
In May 2012, the European Union (EU) Council of Foreign Affairs called on Israel to meet its obligations to communities in Area C, “including by accelerated approval of Palestinian master plans, halting forced transfer of population and demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure… and addressing humanitarian needs.”
The Council stated that the “social and economic developments in Area C are of critical importance for the viability of a future Palestinian state.”
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized the recommendations, saying they were “based on a partial, biased and one-sided depiction of realities on the ground” and that they “do not contribute to advancing the peace process”.
The Ministry said 119 projects were authorized in Area C in 2011 and that they ensured that “planned projects” were “coordinated and in conformity… with the law”.
Oxfam’s Heske believes the recent EU recommendations are bold and courageous, even though it is still not clear how they will play out on the ground. “These conclusions mean that there is now a full political commitment to work on development in Area C,” she said. “How it will play out, we don’t know, if it happens with or without permits. But we don’t want to see just one token water network here and there.”
Since 2011, the Palestinian Authority’s ministry for local government and local Palestinian councils have submitted 32 master plans for development in Area C to the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA). Each master plan includes infrastructure development, health care, primary education, water provision, electricity and the development of agricultural land, and requires approval by the ICA through a lengthy process of negotiation.
However, according to Azzam Hjouj, acting general director for urban and regional planning in the Palestinian ministry of local government, even if master plans are approved by the ICA, it is expected that the Israeli authorities may issue demolition and “stop work” orders for some plans, particularly in areas like Al-Jiftlik in the Jordan Valley, and that political pressure will be required to ensure implementation.
As for the more isolated Bedouin villages in the valley, the new master plans will not cover their areas.
“It’s difficult to make a master plan for these herding communities, because they are dispersed over large areas. They move around a lot and we don’t want to urbanize these areas, it’s their way of life,” Hjouj said. “And even if we made master plans, it would just give the ICA an excuse to congregate the herding communities into one area and take the remaining land.”
The Israeli Coordination of Government Activity in the Territories (COGAT – a unit in the Israeli Ministry of Defense that engages in coordinating civilian issues between the government of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces, international organizations, diplomats, and the Palestinian Authority) said that many of the construction projects in Area C are “illegal and poorly planned”.
A report compiled by COGAT relating to projects in Area C states that “illegal construction projects that ignore master plans undermine the possibility for future expansions and create problems for electrical, sewage and water systems.”
As with the wider crisis, there are no easy solutions for humanitarian agencies seeking to provide aid in Area C, and finding the line between purely humanitarian work, and political engagement is tough.
For economist Shir Hever, author of The Political Economy of Israel’s Occupation, Western governments and NGOs need to be more active in opposing the occupation of West Bank areas.
“Instead, donors put 99 percent of their work in doing what is allowed and 1 percent in protesting conditions,” he said.
- Israeli occupation authorities halt entry of West Bankers to 1948 occupied Palestine (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- More evictions for Israeli army training in the Jordan Valley (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli forces evict West Bank Palestinian outpost despite court ruling (rt.com)
Israeli forces have delivered evacuation orders to around 100 Palestinian families in the northern Jordan Valley ahead of a military training exercise, a local official said Monday.
The evacuation affects around 1,000 Palestinians living in rural communities who reside in Wadi al-Maleh, Ain Hilwa, Wadi al-Faw and al-Burj, local mayor Arif Daraghma told Palestinian media.
They must leave their homes by Wednesday for 48 hours, or they will be subject to penalties, he added.
Israel’s army forced several families from their homes in the northern Jordan Valley earlier this month for a similar exercise.
Hundreds of others were also pushed out their homes for a two-day military exercise in November.
Israel has designated the Jordan Valley a “closed military zone.”
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says Israel has designated around 18 percent of the West Bank as closed military zones, an area roughly equal in size to Area A, the 17.7 percent of the West Bank under Palestinian Authority control.
Around 5,000 Palestinians live in Israeli military firing zones in the West Bank, UNOCHA says. Since 2010, Israel has demolished the homes of 820 Palestinians located in firing zones.
- More evictions for Israeli army training in the Jordan Valley (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Occupied Palestine – 5am in Homsa in the northern Jordan Valley. Abdullah Ghanni, his family and his livestock are on the move under the watchful eyes of the Israeli Army. Two days earlier Ghanni had received a visit from soldiers informing him that military training would take place on land belonging to him and his fellow villagers. Ghanni and five other families were evicted from their land for the duration of the training – 7am to 5pm on the 9th December and 5am to 1pm the following day. All people in the village and their animals were required to leave.
Palestinians in the Jordan Valley of occupied Palestine are long-suffering. Ghanni has been farming this land for 40 years, primarily raising sheep. For all that time the Israeli Army has exercised total control over life. Temporary evictions for the purpose of military training are frequent here. Just three weeks ago the inhabitants of Homsa and two other nearby villages were evicted for two days to accommodate large-scale training manoeuvrers performed jointly by the Israeli and US armies. In the past, unexploded ordinance has been left after such drills, resulting in death and injury to children.
A visit to the northern Jordan Valley is a study in contrasts with the inequalities of the occupation laid out in the starkest terms. On the one hand, Israeli settlements are tidy villages of concrete houses. They are surrounded by plantations of grape vines, neat fields of vegetables, rows of greenhouses; a rich fertile green enclosed by double layers of barbed wire fences and floodlights.
On the other side of these fences, the nearby Palestinians struggle to cling to the remnants of their homeland. Villages here are often little more than a collection of makeshift tents yet, despite appearances, the Palestinians here were never nomadic Bedouins. They had homes, farm buildings, wells and water tanks. Designated Area C, large swaths of the Jordan Valley are under direct Israeli governance and military control. Building is forbidden and home demolitions are a common occurrence. The village neighbouring Homsa – Hadidia – had their stone houses demolished just last year.
If losing their homes wasn’t hard enough, the Israeli settlements and soldiers confiscate water resources. Valuable springs have been taken over and fenced off for the exclusive use of Israelis. Ghanni must travel 40km, past the Hamra checkpoint at the entrance to the Jordan Valley, to get the water he needs for his farm. This is despite the fact there is a spring less than 2km across the valley from his farm, in the Hadidia village. That water is forbidden to the Palestinians, despite it existing far outside the boundaries of any settlement or army base.
An elder in Hadidia pointed out two large tents his village erected to house the people of Homsa over the past two days. The Israeli Armydo nothing to assist the people they displace. No temporary housing, no assistance moving large herds of animals in the early morning. The army do, however, trail behind the villagers in jeeps on their trek across the valley, honking at the animals to hurry their progress,making the herding harder still. They also threaten Ghanni that they will create problems for his family with the settlements if they do not move as told. The frequent evictions disrupt normal family life. Each time, Ghanni is forced to send five of his eleven children to stay with another family close to the Hamra checkpoint so they can continue attending school.
Disturbingly, for Ghanni and the Palestinians in the valley, these incursions and disruptions of life, despite the feelings they provoke, have come to be accepted as normal. Since their 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Israel has deliberately made life in the Jordan Valley as difficult as possible in an attempt to force Palestinians from their land. The Palestinian population of the Jordan Valley prior to 1967 was 320,000. Now it hovers at 56,000. Despite the hardship involved in remaining, Ghanni and his family refuse to leave the land he has known all his life. A move elsewhere holds no promise of any kind of certainty, the fact he remains means his everyday life is a living resistance.
- Israel Evacuates Hundreds Of Palestinians To Conduct Army Training (eurasiareview.com)
- Israeli Settlement expansion in the northern Jordan valley (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)