The following is an appendix to the 2019 yearly settlement construction report of Peace Now.
1. Background: The Jordan Valley – Small settlements, huge amounts of land
Since 1967, Israeli governments have tried to encourage settlement in the Jordan Valley through various incentives. Recently, the prime minister announced plans to annex the valley. In September 2019, he presented an annexation blueprint map for 22.3% of the West Bank in the Jordan Valley, with 30 settlements and 18 illegal outposts. The so-called Trump Plan, crafted with ample input from Netanyahu, supports an annexation of the Jordan Valley although with a slightly different map than Netanyahu’s. For the sake of the following report, the Jordan Valley boundaries were defined according to Netanyhau’s proposed annexation map.
Despite the efforts of various governments, all failed to bring a massive amount of settlers to the Jordan Valley. Currently, only 12,788 settlers live in the Valley—about 3% of the settlers (interestingly, in the East Bank, Jordan, the Jordanian government managed to bring hundreds of thousands of residents to the area with the same climate and distances from Jordanian populated centers).
At the same time, the takeover of the Jordan Valley lands is almost complete. Since 1967, Israel has implemented a policy of dispossession of the Palestinians – an absolute majority of the land was seized for firing zones and training purposes, and hundreds of thousands of dunams were allocated to settlers for agricultural use. The Palestinians have limited areas where Israel allows them to build and live in small enclaves of about 5% of the Valley—in the Jericho area that is Area A, and in some small villages considered Area B. 95% of the Valley is considered to be Area C, under full Israeli control, and Israeli policy is not to permit any construction and development for the Palestinians.
Thus, the reality in the Jordan Valley is one whereby a small minority of residents (12,788 settlers) control 95% of the land, while the Palestinian majority (52,950 – 81% of the Valley’s population) are confined to small enclaves in the remaining 5% of the area.
2. Construction of the settlements in the Jordan Valley in 2019
In the past decade, an average of 103 housing units have been built in the Jordan Valley settlements, with most of the construction located in relatively large settlements on its western edge: in the Kochav HaShachar, Alon, and Mitzpe Yericho.
In 2019, there were 110 housing unit construction starts in the Valley’s settlements and outposts, slightly above average. It is possible to say that in the last three years there has been a relative increase in such construction starts, but it is still early to be determined as a trend.
Among other things, 10 new units were established in the Kedem Arava outpost, making it a large outpost with dozens of families. In Mul Nevo outpost, which consists of a single farm with one resident and several employees, about eight families were added in the last two years, and in the last two years five new caravans taken root (provided by Amana).
3. New settlements (outposts) in the Jordan Valley
In 2012, the phenomenon of building new illegal outposts renewed, mainly as agricultural farms consisting of a limited number of settlers, allowing them to take control of large areas through grazing and removing Palestinian farmers from their land. (For more information on the return of the outpost phenomenon, see here. For more information on the mechanism behind illegal outpost building, see here.)
Of the 40 outposts established since 2012, 30% (12 outposts) were in the Jordan Valley. The takeover of vast areas, and the harassment and driving out of Palestinian farmers by settlers from these newly established outposts, is rampant throughout the area.
In 2019, four new outposts were established in the Jordan Valley: Mitzpeh HaTorah (farm for haredi yeshiva students, adjacent to Mitzpe Yericho settlement), Rimonim North and Mitzpe Kramim East—farms in the vicinity of Kochav Hashahar (note: these farms sometimes “migrate” from place to place); and Maskiyot South (agricultural farm south of Maskiyot settlement in the north of the Valley, west of Alon Road).
|New Outposts in the Jordan Valley
|Kochav Hashahar East
|Mitzpe Kramim East
4. Student Village in Mechora settlement
One of the ways to develop and grow settlements is by establishing student villages, where students enjoy discounted housing and scholarships in exchange for community activity in the settlement. In recent years, several student villages have been established in the settlements (e.g. in Pnei Kedem outpost southeast of Bethlehem, Rimonim settlement, and Almog settlement). In the past year, a new student village has been established in Mechora settlement in the north of the Jordan Valley.