Palestinian communities under threat in the Jordan Valley as settlement expansion and demolitions escalate
Settlement expansion, enabled by discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, is destroying the viability of a future Palestinian state, a new report by Oxfam said today.
The report, “On the Brink: The Impact of Settlements on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley,” says the Jordan Valley, in the occupied West Bank, has the potential to be the Palestinian bread basket, yet restrictions on Palestinians use of land, water, and on building in the valley are keeping them poor while helping nearby Israeli settlements thrive.
By one estimate, the Palestinian economy could gain an additional $1 billion a year in agricultural revenue if the restrictions on Palestinian use of land, water, and mobility in the Jordan Valley were removed.
The report shows that Palestinians can use just 6 percent of the land in the Jordan Valley, while Israeli settlers, who account for just 13 percent of the valley’s people, have control over 86 percent of its land. Settlements in the Jordan Valley – illegal under international law – have established industrial farms that produce high value crops for sale in markets locally and abroad, and are supported by a range of Israeli government grants and subsidies that facilitate their growth and sustainability.
At the same time, the poverty rate for Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley is nearly double that of the rest of the West Bank as many struggle to make a living from farming and animal rearing without adequate access to land.
“Settlements and related Israeli policies, such as systematic demolitions and restrictions on land and water use, are creating a wretched reality for Palestinians in the Jordan Valley,” said Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs. “The government of Israel has an obligation to keep all people safe, but such excessive restrictions on Palestinians inside the West Bank would not be necessary if Israelis were not settling there. These discriminatory policies and practices have pushed more Palestinians into poverty and are destroying the prospects for two states living side by side in security and peace.”
EU must press for demolitions and settlement building to stop
The report calls on Israel’s largest trading partner and the biggest donor to the Palestinians, the European Union and its member states, to take urgent action to press the government of Israel to immediately stop building settlements and end the demolition of Palestinian structures, including homes, animal pens, water cisterns, and solar panels.
The EU has an opportunity to move beyond statements as Jose Manuel Barroso, the current President of the European Commission, is set to visit Israel and the West Bank in the coming days and the highest level meeting between the European Union and Israel, the EU – Israel Association Council will take place later in this month. “World leaders have long been saying the right things, but strong words alone are not helping the Palestinian farmers and herders who live in the Jordan Valley develop their own economy and build the infrastructure necessary for positive community growth,” says Hobbs.
Oxfam’s call comes on the heels of the European Union’s unprecedented statement, made on 14 May, against demolitions carried out in Israeli controlled parts of the occupied West Bank. Since that time, Palestinians have seen no meaningful change on the ground, as the government of Israel demolished at least 59 Palestinian structures and 34 Palestinian families were displaced when their communities were used as the site for an extensive military training in an area of the Jordan Valley where Oxfam works.
Oxfam says the situation is likely to deteriorate further unless action is taken now. Year 2011 saw a 20 percent rise in new settlement construction across the West Bank as compared to 2010. Over the same period, the number of Palestinians displaced by demolition doubled, with 60 percent of these demolitions carried out in areas close to settlements.
Notes to Editors
- There are 9,500 Israeli settlers and 66,000 Palestinians in the Jordan Valley.
- More than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank, including 90 percent of the Jordan Valley, is classified as Area C, where Israel maintains full civil and military control. In Area C, the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) has control over planning and zoning, and permits for Palestinian construction have been rarely given. Less than 1 per cent of Area C has been planned for Palestinian development by the ICA and 94 per cent of permits have been rejected in recent years. Structures erected without a permit are routinely demolished.
- 2011 saw a sharp increase in the number of Israeli-led evictions and demolitions in heavily restricted areas of the West Bank, such as the Jordan Valley and Area C, with 622 structures demolished and 1094 Palestinians displaced. 60 percent of the demolitions have occurred in areas close to settlements and around 25 percent of all demolitions have been structures provided through donor aid, such as shelters, water cisterns, and animal pens. To date in 2012, there have been 330 demolitions and 536 people displaced.
- In May 2011 the government of Israel announced that the amount of agricultural land allotted to settlers in the Jordan Valley would be doubled and their water subsidy would increase by 20 percent. In March 2012 the Israeli Knesset approved an additional budget allocation of $2 million to build more settlements in the Jordan Valley. In total, it is estimated that the government of Israel spends $24,650 per settler each year, which is approximately 57 percent higher than the average expenditure per capita for Israeli citizens inside Israel.
- The value of settlement goods sold in Palestinian markets is $500 million annually.
- The EU-Israel Association Council and the EU-Israel Association Committee are two joint institutions established under the EU-Israel Association Agreement that entered into force in 2000. The EU-Israel Association Council meets once a year at ministerial and will take place this year in the end of July.
- On 14 May 2012 EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels made a set of recommendations, unprecedented in their length and scope, to the Government of Israel on its policy towards settlement expansion and demolitions in Area C of the West Bank.
For more information or to schedule a field visit with Oxfam to the Jordan Valley, please contact:
Willow Heske, Oxfam Media Lead for the OPTI at +972 (0) 597133646 or +972 (0)546395002 or firstname.lastname@example.org