Struggle for land in the Jordan Valley
Lara El Jazairi Programme Policy and Communications Coordinator
5th Jul 2012
Settlement expansion, enabled by discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, is destroying the viability of a future Palestinian state, says Lara El-Jazairi co-author of our new report.
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.
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. They 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.
Our 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 EU and Israel, the EU-Israel Association Council will take place later in this month.
Our paper comes on the heels of the EU'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.
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.
2011 saw a 20 percent rise in new settlement construction across the West Bank 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.
The situation is likely to deteriorate further unless action is taken now.
Download: On the Brink: Israeli settlements and their impact on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley