Palestinian Authority, Israel in race to increase population of Jordan Valley

Published 21.08.2019 00:04

Illegal settlements and the displacement of Palestinians are one of the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the embargo on Gaza continues and makes life harder, the Palestinians in the West Bank also suffer from the violation of their property rights. Thus the struggle continues but many Palestinians are fed up with current conditions.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is trying to increase the Palestinian population in certain areas; one of these areas is the Jordan Valley, located between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announced on Monday that his government would supply grants for Palestinian university graduates to move to the Jordan Valley. The aim is clear: the PA wants to increase the population, as there are more than 11,000 illegal Israeli settlements there.

U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has been preparing a new solution for the decades-long conflict. It is called the "Deal of the Century," and although the U.S. and Israel claim that the deal will bring an end to the conflict, Palestinians are very concerned, due to the fact that the Trump administration is explicitly pro-Israel. The move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the backing of Israel's occupation in the Golan Heights and the cutting of aid for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) all indicate that the U.S. plan will restrict Palestinians' rights and financial resources. It is feared the Jordan Valley may be handed over to Israel as well. U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, who visited the Jordan Valley in June, said the area was very important for Israel's security.

In the PA cabinet meeting Shtayyeh said the Palestinian administration would work on giving grants "to any Palestinian university graduate who is prepared to live in Jordan Valley areas and villages, and work with the residents there on production projects," but did not give details.

On the other hand, Israeli politicians promised Israeli settlers that they will strengthen the country's control over the area. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the opposition leader Benny Gantz said the settlements would not be uprooted. "This is a crucial strategic area, which Israel needs, always needed and will always need in the future," Gantz said. Promising to increase the Israeli population in the Jordan Valley, Gantz said "if there were times that [only] one [military] division was able to maneuver in this area, now times are such that other jihadists or other elements or enemies might infiltrate this area. Therefore, under any future circumstances, we are going to keep this area. We will try to strengthen it as much as possible with a national plan to support the settlements in this area."

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