Expansion of Jurisdiction of the Jordan Valley Regional Council into the Heart of a Palestinian Village

The Civil Administration has announced its intention to add to the jurisdiction of the Jordan Valley Regional Council an area of 206.3 dunams (51 acres) located in the heart of the Palestinian village of Jiftlik in Area C. The public has been given 21 days to object to this. According to the Civil Administration, the area designated to be added to the council’s jurisdiction is defined as an archaeological site called Tel Al-Mazar.

Peace Now: “The area designated for inclusion in the council’s jurisdiction is not linked to any existing settlement but is situated within a Palestinian village. This represents another dangerous step in a series of actions by the Israeli government aimed at displacing Palestinians from Area C. Rather than seeking a long-term political solution, the Israeli government led by Netanyahu and Smotrich persists in advancing a pro-settlement agenda that exacerbates the dispossession and oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank, further escalating the current situation.”

The responsibility for managing archaeological sites in Area C lies with the Civil Administration’s Archaeology Unit. In order to conduct archaeological excavations or develop a tourist site, there is no need to include the area within the jurisdiction of the council. For example, the archaeological site in Sebastia, located within Area C, is managed by the Civil Administration and is not included within the jurisdiction of any regional council. Therefore, it appears that the intention to transfer the area to the regional council’s control is aimed at enabling the establishment of some form of settlement in the form of a tourist site or other.

It should be noted that on the outskirts of the area, there is a large structure of a British police station that was established during the mandate period. The existence of this historic structure on the site could allow settlers to establish a quasi-tourist settlement without the need for building or planning permits, and without the need for a government decision on the establishment of a settlement. A similar phenomenon of using an existing structure to establish a settlement presence exists, for example, in Adorayim, Khashem al Daraj (which settlers call Mitzpe Midrag), and Rujum A-Naka.

Tel Al-Mazar is a relatively small archaeological site that was excavated in the past and contains mainly remains from the Iron Age (around 1,200-1,000 BCE) and the Roman-Byzantine period (first to seventh century CE). Adjacent to the site is a Muslim cemetery. Settlers are interested in the Iron Age period associated with the biblical settlement period and the Israelite conquest of Canaan. In recent years, archaeological excavations and extensive tourism development work have been carried out in the Jordan Valley. For example, Israel has allocated millions of shekels for the development of the Hasmonean palaces in Jericho, and in the past, excavations were carried out in Fasayil located south of Tel Al-Mazar.

The decision to expand the jurisdiction of the regional council adds to a series of steps taken by the government in recent days, beginning with the declaration of approximately 8,100 dunams as state lands in the Jordan Valley and extending to the expansion of the jurisdiction of the Shilo settlement, which now encompasses the Ahiya outpost.