Jordan Valley Greenhouses
Jordan Valley Greenhouses Hagai Huberman

Several months ago INN reported a request submitted by the Palestinian Authority to receive an Israeli permit to build a tourist project on the shores of the Dead Sea, a project for which Israel would have to give up its judicial sovereignty in the region. As of yet it is unknown whether Israel has officially responded to the request, yet as it turns out, there is a body who is promoting the idea – the Peres Center for Peace.

According to a report in ‘Calcalist’, a group of researchers from the Peres Center for Peace, a French university and a Palestinian research center held a conference in Jerusalem recently, at which they presented the advantages of the Jordan Valley for the Palestinian economy.

The researchers see in the Jordan Valley an appropriate and suitable site in which to establish new Palestinian cities, tourism initiatives, Palestinian agriculture and industry, and more. They actually suggested placing the cities in the lower mountains which descend into the valley in order to allow for the establishing of their agricultural initiatives in the flat area of the Jordan Valley. In the review they presented at the conference they also mention the fact that the Jordan Valley includes a 'small number of settlements' as they defined them (although the valley’s  Israeli farmers reject their being branded as settlers) and a 'small number of settlers', approximately 7,500.

Danny Rubinstein, who reported on the conclusions of the research that was presented, began his report with the following optimistic words: “One can be filled with a sense of joy when reading the chapter on the Jordan Valley in the report of the Israeli-Palestinian group of economists.” He goes as far as to describe the entire initiative as “the dream of the valley”. It is not clear whether he believes this is indeed an optimistic dream for the valley’s Israeli residents or if it is no more than a nightmare.

The following are the main elements of the Palestinian request that was submitted approximately a half a year ago to the Israeli government. The leadership of the Palestinian Authority (the same leadership that boycotts and destroys Israeli products) asked the Israeli government to receive jurisdiction on a land in the Jordan Valley in which a real estate project estimated at $2 billion and one hundred million will be carried out, this according to statistics attributed to the Head of the Palestinian Investment Fund.

The program in question is expected to include an investment of $1.4 billion in a tourist resort project on the shores of the Dead Sea, and additional investments at $700 million in the establishing of a new Palestinian city near Jericho.

According to reports, this is an area which will be established mostly on property currently under full Israeli control. It is estimated that about sixty percent of the area is controlled by Israel and as such the appeal includes a request to receive from Israel jurisdiction over the area.

Six months ago the Palestinian Authority expressed its doubts over the chances of receiving Israel’s agreement to the request in light of the tensions between the two, but now it turns out that the Peres Center for Peace is out there working to promote the project. As of now, it is only the subject of  research and another economic conference, but the failed Oslo Accords that ended in the Oslo War that took the lives of over a thousand Israeli civilians serve as a precedent that also began as seminars and theoretic discussions.

The Jordan Valley is considered vital for Israel's security by its defense establishment. Shortly after the Six Day War, then Deputy Prime Minister and former head of Palmach,Yigal Allon, who was willing to concede parts of other areas, submitted to the Israeli cabinet what was dubbed  The Allon Plan for "secure borders". It called for incorporating in Israel a strip of land ten to fifteen kilometers wide along the Jordan River and most of the Judean desert along the Dead Sea to allow Israel to mobilize its reserve forces in the case of war from the east. The Labor Government subsequently built  21 communities in the Jordan Valley and eastern slopes of the Shomron (Samaria). .

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