I have written in the past about the messy and controversial place where politics and the environment meets- especially between Israel and Palestine. However, it’s hard to ignore the political and ecological implications of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Indeed Oxfam International, the UK-based NGO dedicated to confronting poverty, recently released a report on the economic and environmental degradation of the Jordan Valley. Titled ‘On the Brink: Israeli settlements and their impacts on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley,‘ the report looks in-depth at the implications of the Israeli occupation of the Jordan Valley and its wider political impacts in terms of hindering the peace process.
The report reveals that Israel is near complete control of the regional water resources whilst Palestinians struggle to secure their water supply from one day to the next. Israeli settlers living illegally in the West Bank are given preferential treatment by the Israeli authorities who help secure water for everything from irrigation to recreation. Palestinians, in contrast, have no control over their wells, springs, and aquifers located on their own land.
Oxfam’s report also found that Palestinians in the Jordan Valley were given access to less than 6 percent of the region’s arable land. Israeli settlers had access to 86% of the arable land. The remaining 8 percent is controlled by the Israeli military or used for infrastructure. The Jordan Valley – most of which lies within the eastern strip of the West Bank – is about 120km long and 15km wide. “Without freedom of movement or access to resources the community has been left in disrepair and lacking the economic foundation for eventual growth”, reports the BBC.
The Oxfam report suggests that Palestinians could generate an extra £1 billion ($1.5 billion) a year if restrictions to their use of land, water and movement were removed. It states: “The Jordan Valley… has the potential to be the Palestinian bread basket, yet restrictions on Palestinians use of land, water, and on building in the valley are keeping them poor while helping nearby Israeli settlements thrive.” The final conclusion of the report is that the Israeli occupation must be halted as it is seriously jeopardizing the possibility of an independent Palestinian state.
The report also calls on Israel’s largest trading partner and biggest donor to the Palestinians, the European Union and its member states, to take urgent action to press the government of Israel to immediately stop building settlements and end the demolition of Palestinian structures. According to the BBC, Israel has criticised the report stating that the organisation had “a clearly political agenda.”
:: Image via Guillaume Paumier/flickr.
For more on the Jordan Valley and Israel/Palestine see: