Deepening the conflict

The Jordan Valley has recently come to the attention of politicians and analysts as a result of changes in Israeli political statements and practices vis-a-vis that part of the occupied Palestinian territory and its Palestinian inhabitants.

The area is extremely significant from strategic, security and economic perspectives. After the Israeli project of building a wall in and along most of the western side of the West Bank, a project that is appropriating a certain amount of Palestinian territory as well as separating Palestinian areas from each other and further isolating occupied East Jerusalem from its Palestinian hinterland, all eyes were directed to see what Israel was going to do on the eastern border.

The Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods in the Jordan Valley and various statements from politicians have indicated an intention to confiscate most of the Valley. The recent restrictions on movement have had a very negative effect on the daily lives of Palestinians there, and would seem to be aimed at making life between difficult and impossible, in order to force people and allow for easy implementation of Israeli control over this area.

From an economic point of view, the Jordan Valley is a main source of agriculture for Palestinians and is thus important for employment and the economy. The Valley has fertile soil and is relatively abundant with water. The restrictions on the movement of agricultural products have been causing significant losses to the industry and have forced many farmers to abandon their land and work.

Palestinians are now concerned that with the de facto Israeli annexation of parts of the Valley, Israel is completing its unilateral policy of determining the future of the Palestinian territories. This is done in contradiction to international law and in a way that will jeopardize the potential for an independent Palestinian state to emerge. Israel has already separated East Jerusalem and neighboring areas from the rest of the Palestinian territories. Israel has isolated areas on the western side of the West Bank, and it has divided the West Bank into four main parts separated by new large military terminals–especially in the northern West Bank and middle region at Zaatara, Qalandia and the container terminal in the Bethlehem area–in addition to the many smaller checkpoints.

The culmination of these unilateral steps is set to unfold in the eastern part of the West Bank. This will result in the complete fragmentation of the West Bank, which is already totally separated from Gaza. Thus will end any possibility of establishing a Palestinian state. The maximum number of Palestinians will be squeezed into the minimum amount of space, and the rest of the land will be kept for already expanding illegal Jewish settlements in occupied territory.

In addition, Israel, which contributed significantly and intentionally to Hamas’ electoral success last month, is now using that new political reality as an excuse and a smokescreen to proceed with its unilateral practices. These might consolidate Israeli control, but will at the same time extend and deepen the conflict.