by Jamil Husni,
After having finished a hard-working day in the area, three Palestinian Water Authority employees reached al-Hamra checkpoint in the Jordan Valley, on their way to Ramallah. The Israeli army refused to let them through, claiming that their permits are for West Bank checkpoints only.
Othman Sheikha, the wells’ observer in the West Bank said of his arguement with an Israeli soldier: “He demanded special permits to enter the Jordan Valley, other than the permits we have.”
His colleague, who seemed to be less nervous than him said “in order to reach a village or agricultural area in the Jordan Valley, you have to prove to the Israeli army that you are not a West Bank resident.”
He added: “Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley are one issue,” referring to Israeli intentions to dominate these two vital areas.
Israel prevents all West Bank residents from entering the Jordan Valley under security pretexts. This is a real yet unofficial Israeli policy implemented by the army in an area they call the eastern isolation area.
“The next goal for Israel is the Jordan Valley or 30% of the West Bank. There are procedures that Israel does in secret and in public to annex the Jordan Valley and to isolate it from the rest of the West Bank” says Hami al-Masri, a political analyst.
Issa Zboon, director of Geographic Information Systems Unit in the Applied Researches Institute (Areej), said that the area of the eastern isolated zone, from the eastern mountains to the Jordan River, is about 1555 km². According to him, Israel has in effect completed its isolation of the Jordan Valley at the beginning of last year. Even before that, all West Bank residents were forbidden to enter the area due to a law commonly known as the “Identity Law”.
This law, which is enforced by Israeli soldiers at all checkpoints surrounding the isolation zone, forbids non-residents of the Jordan Valley from entering the isolation zone. The soldiers would check the ID card of each passenger to make sure non-residents stayed out, hence the name of this effective policy.
Israel has never issued such a law officially, and always claimed that the procedures in the Jordan Valley are security procedures and not politically motivated. Practically one third of the West Bank is out of bounds for Palestinians.
Zboon said the isolated zone constitutes 27% of the West Bank area, which totals 5561km². Another 10% of the West Bank is in the western isolation zone, behind the wall. The link between the eastern and the western isolation zones, which the Israeli government is trying to establish, is a strip of land taking up to 6% of the West Bank.
“This is stated in the Kadima project about unilateral disengagement and drawing final borders of Israel within 10 years.” Zboon clarified.
“Israel is not wasting time creating facts on the ground, thus making negotiations impossible.”
The checkpoints of the Jordan Valley are so impressive and thorough it gives the impression of crossing the Green line. They are very similar to those on border crossings between countries.
Dr. Ayman Daraghmeh, a PLC member from Tubas, said what Israel doing in the Jordan Valley area has “obvious political goals.”
“There is no Palestinian state without the Jordan Valley borders and real geographic continuity,” said al-Masri.
Palestinians depend on the Jordan Valley for their food and water. The area underwent during the initial years of the Israeli occupation a massive settlement campaign, termed by occupation authorities the “Israeli agricultural settlement”.