The Settlement Division has agreed to double the amount of land that settlers
can use for farming in the Jordan Valley. It also agreed to increase the amount
of water Jewish farmers can use for their fields.
The newly allocated
agricultural areas are all on state land and do not involve any private
Palestinian property, the division’s spokesman Ofer Amar told The Jerusalem Post
A government official said that the decision taken earlier
this month but publicized only this week did not affect the status of the land,
which already belonged to the state.
The new measure restores equity
between farmers in the Jordan Valley, which is beyond the pre-1967 borders, and
those in other areas of the country, such as the Arava, Jordan Valley Regional
Council head David Lahiani told the Post
At a time when for diplomatic
reasons, the future of the Jordan Valley and the rest of the West Bank appears
to be uncertain, the expansion gives farmers a sense of normality, Lahiani
“Until our fate is determined, we want to live a normal
life. We want to feel that we are no different than anyone else,” he
The holding of each Jordan Valley farmer increases from 35 dunams
(3.5 hectares) to 80 dunams automatically, based on the decision approved by the
Settlement Division earlier this month.
Lahiani said that in some cases
the expanded allocations allow for farmers to simply make use of land that was
already part of their settlements.
In other cases it expands the
settlement’s agricultural borders.
Lahiani said that the settlers now use
56,000 dunams of farmland. The new measure would allow them to increase their
holding by 54,000 dunams, bringing the amount of farmland in the Valley to
But he said, the growth would not happen
At present, he said, there is not enough water to farm all
Until now, each farmer could use up to 42 cubic meters of
water a year. Now they can use up to 51 cubic meter.
Danny Kritchman, who
heads the Settlement Division, added that it was not possible these days for
farmers to make a living with only 35 dunams of land.
director-general Yaron Ben-Ezra said that there were 21 settlements in the
Jordan Valley, of which 17 made their living exclusively from agriculture, such
He added that 60 percent of the dates grown in Israel come from
the Jordan Valley.
Technically, the Settlement Division is part of the
World Zionist Organization, a nongovernmental agency. It has been contracted
since 1967 to implement government-funded projects in the West Bank. In the last
decade its mandate was expanded to include the Negev and the
Although it had traditionally functioned under the Prime
Minister’s Office, the Settlement Division was moved to the Agriculture Ministry
Last week, pending Knesset approval, the cabinet agreed to
return it to the Prime Minister’s Office. The decision to expand the Jordan
Valley settlement’s agricultural holdings was taken while the division was still
under the Agriculture Ministry.