2 November 2010
Alternative Information Center (AIC)
As part of recent negotiations, the United States has suggested that Israel lease the Jordan Valley, which Israel began occupying in 1967, from the Palestinian Authority, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to the idea, but demanded that the arrangement be for a longer period of time. "Seven years is not enough - an arrangement like this needs to last for dozens of years," Netanyahu said in closed talks, according to Israeli Army Radio.
When Israel occupied the Jordan Valley in 1967, 320,000 people resided in the area. As part of its occupation policy, Israel declared the area a closed military zone. Today, as a result of campaigns of ethnic cleansing, only 56,000 Palestinians remain residents in the Jordan Valley on a permanent basis. Others settle seasonally to work on cultivating lands and grazing their herds.
Given Israel’s policies and military actions in the valley, it appears the government would prefer the migration of all inhabitants.
Daniel Herschkowitz, head of the right-wing national religious Zionist party HaBayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home) dismissed the land leasing idea. No matter the time period he said, “If we agree to the offer, we will be broadcasting to the Palestinians that the land is actually theirs." Adding, "I'm not the only one who thinks this way."
Israeli governments since 1967, particularly those headed by the Labour Party, have considered the Jordan Valley an important region in which to create Jewish settlements, and have forced the Palestinian inhabitants to leave. In the 1967 plan drawn up by then Israeli Defence Minister Yigal Alon, the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert were included in the State of Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Itzak Rabin's government in the early 1990s promised not to create new settlements, but to extend “Greater Jerusalem” and the colonies in the Jordan Valley. The peace process decade of the 1990s and the following years marked by the Second Intifada further increased Israel’s settlement construction.
Over the past year, Israel has stepped up its demolition practices in the Jordan Valley in efforts to drive out the remaining Bedouin and Palestinian communities.
During the summer months of 2010, the Israeli military regularly destroyed homes and agricultural structures. At the same time approximately 9,400 settlers live in the area, heavily subsidized by the state. Palestinians continue to be systematically cut off from accessing the majority of their land, which instead has been usurped for settlements, settlement farming and productive ventures, military areas and "green zones".
According to Israel’s Army Radio, in response to Netanyahu’s land leasing suggestion, a senior minister said that "anything less than a 99-year lease is not worth talking about.” And Daniel Herschkowitz added, "Why do I need to lease land from them that belongs to us?," the report stated.