Annexing the Jordan Valley

February 2020

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Is the Jordan Valley an integral part of the occupied territories?

Definitively. The Jordan Valley is occupied territory that is part of the West Bank. It constitutes approximately 30% of the West Bank and a substantial part of Area C.

Nevertheless, in the eyes of a significant portion of the Jewish public in Israel, the Jordan Valley is not part of the occupied territories. A survey conducted several years ago indicates that the vast majority of the Israeli public holds misleading stances on the demographic and political situation in the Jordan Valley: for instance, most of the survey participants were unaware that the Jordan Valley constitutes occupied territory that is not under Israeli sovereignty. Most of the survey participants even thought that the majority of the population of the Jordan Valley was Jewish, rather than Palestinian, when in practice the opposite holds true. The survey also reveals that most Israelis rarely ever visit the Jordan Valley.

Do settlers live in the Jordan Valley? Do Palestinians live there?

Approximately 65,000 Palestinians live in the Jordan Valley (2016 data, B’Tselem website). They have lived on the site even prior to the establishment of the state, and since 1967 have lived under an occupation that dominates every aspect of their lives. Among other things, this population suffers from practices that aim to hinder their capacity to lead and ensure their natural longevity on site, including: home evictions to enable military training on their land; home demolitions; reduction of Bedouin shepherds’ grazing areas due to the establishment of outposts typically accompanied by military closure orders. The population also suffers from a lack of planning and basic infrastructure including construction permits and access or connection to water sources.

Approximately 11,000 settlers live in the Jordan Valley. The Kibbutz settlements in the Jordan Valley were established by the Kibbutz movement and are part of the former Mapai (Workers’ Party) establishment. In recent years, several outposts have been established in the Jordan Valley that applied strategies of land takeover typical of settlements throughout the West Bank.

What’s new regarding the occupation policy in the Jordan Valley?

In recent years, the mode of de facto annexation has intensified along with the violation of Palestinians’ human rights through various means, including direct Knesset legislation over the occupied territories. Recently, whether as part of an election campaign or Trump’s plan, the government has sought to promote formal annexation over the territories, or at least the settlements – that is, to apply Israeli law and full sovereignty over them. The Jordan Valley became the first destination for annexation, perhaps due to misconceptions regarding the territory, which Israel strove to root in public consciousness, and perhaps due to Israel’s interest in surrounding the entirety of the occupied territories with Israeli sovereignty.

What consequences might annexation have on human rights?

If carried out, the annexation would have dramatic consequences on Palestinians’ human rights in the Jordan Valley.

  • Annexing the Jordan Valley will turn the occupation, which is intended to be a temporary state in accordance with international law, into one that is permanent.
  • Annexation implies that the Knesset, the Israeli and American governments, none of which represent Palestinian residents, will deem themselves the sovereign legislature in the occupied territories, declaring permanent sovereignty.
  • Annexation will apply Israeli law over the Jordan Valley in full, without any obligation to respect the law that existed prior to the occupation, through disregarding limitations imposed by international humanitarian law.
  • Annexation implies that Israeli national-territorial interests – settler security and settlement expansion – will shape policy in the Jordan Valley, whereas the military commander who is obliged to protect the Palestinian populations’ interests and rights, will push them even further aside than they already are under the current circumstances.
  • Annexation will fortify and entrench the reality of two legal systems and formally establish an apartheid regime, such that two completely different legal systems will operate in the same area. The application of Israeli law to the occupied territories will attribute the settlements and any additional annexed territory to the sovereign state of Israel, ensuring full rights to Jewish residents. On the other hand, the military occupation regime will continue to apply to the Palestinian population, which will be left out of the annexed territories as if nothing changed.
  • There is a possibility that the occupied territories (in full or in part), will be annexed along with their Palestinian residents, similar to what took place in East Jerusalem – or worse, Palestinian inhabitants will be granted temporary military permits. Such a situation would lead to segregation of the territory annexed from the West Bank, harming residents’ quality of life and generating challenges regarding protecting annexed Palestinian residents’ human rights, including the right to self-determination and freedom of movement in their country.

What’s wrong with annexing the Jordan Valley, as proposed in Trump’s plan?

Annexation with both parties’ consent as part of a peace agreement that preserves all residents' human rights is theoretically legitimate. Yet this case involves a unilateral proposal to annex occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank, with the approval of the US administration, which is not within the framework of an agreement on behalf of Israel and the Palestinians. Israel and the US may not make this decision on their own accord, unilaterally, in violation of international law and human rights. They may not decide to annex the occupied territories on their own. They cannot change the status of various territories without any consideration whatsoever for Palestinian residents’ status, and the fact that inhabitants may be cut off from their homeland. The proposal reinforces the existence of two separate legal systems in the West Bank, officially transforming the existing regime into an apartheid regime.