Israel restricts Jordan Valley water access
Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley are frequently denied permits to restore old wells or dig new ones.
At a time when the Palestinian Authority is facing a severe financial crisis, a report by the UK-based non-governmental organisation Oxfam International has revealed that Palestinians could generate an extra $1bn a year by some estimates if Israel removes restrictions on the use of land, water and movement in the Jordan Valley.
“The Jordan Valley… has the potential to be the Palestinian bread basket,” the organisation said in the report, On the Brink: Israeli settlements and their impacts on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley. “However, the persistent expansion of Israeli settlements and other restrictions on Palestinian development have made life extremely difficult for Palestinian communities.”
The Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area holds nearly one-third of the West Bank’s land and is home to roughly 60,000 Palestinians. Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, which delegated various degrees of autonomy to the Palestinian Authority (PA) around built up and urban areas, Israel retained full civil and military control over 60 per centof the West Bank. This is now known as Area “C”. Some 87 per cent of the Jordan Valley lies within this classification. Area “A” is defined as under full PA control and Area B is under Israeli military control; the PA here is in charge of civilian affairs. These designations have effectively divided the West Bank into three main non-contiguous areas.
Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley are mainly farmers or Bedouins, mostly living in enclaves hemmed in by closed Israeli military zones, checkpoints and more than 30 Israeli settlements. Their movement is severely hindered by a stringent permit system and by “live fire” zones. Here, the Israeli military sometimes carries out training exercises in close proximity to Palestinian communities - and even inside population centres and villages.
This was the case in Al Aqaba, a herding and agricultural community located on the Western edge of the Jordan Valley. Before 1967, around 2,000 Palestinians lived in this small village. There are fewer than 300 inhabitants today, after Israeli authorities created three military camps on its outskirts, and began military “training exercises” - using live ammunition - often within the village itself.
Paralysed from the waist down after he was shot by Israeli soldiers, Al Aqaba’s mayor, Haj Sami Sadeq, led a campaign for years against these operations in order to sustain the existence of the village.