B’Tselem Claims: Israel is Preparing to Annex Jordan Valley

A new anti-Israel report by B'Tselem claims Israel has taken over large parts of the Jordan Valley in preparation to annex the area.

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Elad Benari, | updated: 06:00

Greenhouses in the Jordan Valley
Greenhouses in the Jordan Valley
Hagai Huberman

A new report with intent to damage Israel's standing by the radical leftist group B’Tselem claims that Israel has instituted a policy in the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea that exploits the resources of the area more intensively than in the rest of Judea and Samaria.

Issued Thursday, the report claims the reason for this policy is that Israel intends to annex the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea, areas returned to Israel in the 1967 War but not annexed officially.

Although annexation plans have not been aired, these areas are considered absolutely vital to Israel's defense by IDF military leaders. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has stated that the IDF must stay in the area even if a PA state is recognized by Israel, no matter what its borders. Almost all the land is state land and was designated Area C in the Oslo Accords, meaning full Israeli civil and security control.

Israel has classified hundreds of thousands of dunams in the area as state land, fire zones, or nature reserves. It makes efforts to prevent the wildcat Arab construction that occurs in other parts of the area without regard for safety laws, zoning or any preservation of nature and natural resources.

B’Tselem is known for its anti-Israel reports. A previous report by the organization, which was released last July, declared, without supporting data,  that 21 percent of the built-up areas within the Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria are private Arab property. Legal advisors to the Judea and Samaria Councils said the claims are fabrications.

Last July’s report was released on the same day as a meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, leading some to say that the organization did this purposely in order to sabotage Israel-U.S. relations.

B’Tselem has also been found to be one of several Israeli leftist groups that receive money from Arab pro-terror organizations such as the Ramallah-based National Development Center (NDC), which is closely linked to a fund called the Welfare Association (WA). The WA, in turn, receives some of its money from the Al Aqsa Fund, which also gives money to the relatives of mass murdering ‘martyrs’ who carried out suicide attacks against Jews. These findings were published by grassroots student group Im Tirtzu in January.

According to the findings, the NDC gave a total of $450,000 to B’Tselem in 2008-2009 alone.

The B'Tselem report notes that the areas of the Jordan Valley and ​​northern Dead Sea are the largest land reserves in Judea and Samaria. The area is 1.6 million dunams (400,000 acres), and constitutes 28.8 percent of Judea and Samaria. 65,000 Palestinian Authority Arabs reside in the area in 29 localities and it is estimated that thousands more live in Bedouin communities. About 18,000 Jews live in the region in 37 communities in the Emek Hayarden (Jordan Valley) Regional Council.

The report claims that Israel has taken over 77.5 percent of the lands using various measures, and that in the last two years, the Civil Administration has destroyed buildings belonging to the Bedouin communities in these areas, even though some were built prior to 1967. They add that thousands of additional dunams have been "stolen" from PA Arab refugees.

Israel also took over most of the water sources in the region, claims the report, and designates them almost exclusively for use by the Jewish communities in the area. “This allocating allowed the settlements to develop intensive farming throughout the year, and most of its products are intended for export,” says the report. “The allocating of water to the valley settlements is equal in scope to almost a third of the amount of water available to 2.5 million Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria.”

Israel has also "seized" the most prominent tourist sites in the region, B'Tselem states, namely the northern shores of the Dead Sea, Wadi Qelt, the Qumran caves, the Ein Feshkha springs, and the baptismal site Qasr Al-Yahud. 

In addition, claims B’Tselem, Israel allows private enterprises to exploit the resources of the region and to profit from the  minerals and tourism on the beaches of the northern Dead Sea. Israel has also built sewage treatment and garbage planting sites, admits the organization.