Full of settlers: construction of new Jordan Valley Israeli settlement
by Jamil al-Husni, Brighton Palestine, 1 April 2007
EIN AL-HILWA, West Bank
From his home in the Ein al-Hilwa village in the Jordan Valley, 23 year-old Nasser Kaabna watches ongoing construction of the new Israeli settlement named Maskot.
Foundations for temporary housing and electrical lines have started to be laid. The settlement will house 23 families evacuated from the Gaza Strip when Israel redeployed from the now-besieged area last year. The number of families is slated to grow to nearly 100.
“Maskot is full of settlers, and many of them are newcomers. You can guess the number of them from their civilian and military vehicles,” says Kaabna.
“The settlers here show that Israel’s official military announcement came many months after construction started on the ground,” he added, referring to Israeli defense minister Amir Peretz’s recent announcement that the settlement would be built for ex-Gaza settlers.
“A few days ago, I saw some settlers emerge from this settlement and attack locals. They are dangerous and aggressive,” says Kaabna.
Others from his village agree.
“One week ago, four settlers in a Toyota vehicle came looking for donkeys. They took our donkeys and drove away. After two hours, they returned to look for more but found nothing,” recalls a boy named Odae Kardi.
Aref Daragmeh, a local official says no one is sure why the settlers are collecting donkeys.
“This settlement sealed almost 2000 dunums of land owned by the village’s citizens. Settlers do whatever they want – with arms in their hands and a radical religious ideology in their minds,” Daragmeh says.
Announcement of the new settlement construction aroused reactions of rejection from the U.S. administration, the European Union and Arab countries. All consider such building a violation of Road Map agreements.
Under the “Road Map” peace plan, Israel pledged to freeze all settlement expansion, while the Palestinian Authority promised to crack down on armed groups.
Settlement construction in the Jordan Valley began a few years after the 1967 war. Israel established many agricultural settlements there to benefit from the large expanses of land and rich water resources.
In other nearby areas, heavy machines and bulldozers were seen preparing the foundation for new homes of the Rotem settlement close to the main road, which links the northern plains with Tubas and Tammoun. The annexed areas, as well as the rest of the farmlands there, are fertile and include natural resources such as springs.
Walid Assaf, president of the Land and Settlement Resistance Committee in the Palestinian Legislative Council says he believes this will be the start of a new pattern. “The Israeli government will use the unstable internal Palestinian situation to build more settlements.”
“The odd thing is that this new settlement came days after the meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert,” he points out.
“The settlement mechanism requires participation on three fronts to occupy the land and build on it – the government, the military and the settlers,” Assaf adds. “When the Israeli government fails to control an area of land, it leaves responsibility to the military. If the military doesn’t deal with the area, settlers will just begin to build temporary houses on the land and
displace its Palestinian inhabitants.”
Ayman Daraghma, a member of the Legislative Council for Tubas warns of the current situation developing.
“Settlements in the Jordan Valley have never had the attention they needed from Palestinian officials. This is a very dangerous situation.”