PA offering 'grants' to Palestinians who move to Jordan Valley

The Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea constitute almost 30% of the West Bank. Nearly 65,000 Palestinians and some 11,000 Jews live there.

August 20, 2019 10:22
3 minute read.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah, April 15, 2019

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh gestures as he arrives for a cabinet meeting of the new Palestinian government, in Ramallah, April 15, 2019. (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

The Palestinian Authority may offer grants to Palestinian university graduates who move to the Jordan Valley, PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announced on Monday, thereby ratcheting up the battle for Area C.

His statement comes as Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief political opponent Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, have all made statement about the need to place the Jordan Valley under Israeli sovereignty in the future.

Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Lahiani and the right-wing NGO Regavim have long held that they were fighting to maintain Israel’s hold on Area C, including the Jordan Valley.

The Palestinians are now embarking on a campaign with regard to the Jordan Valley, because they fear that US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, known as the “Deal of the Century,” will include placing the Jordan Valley within Israel’s sovereign borders.

“The Palestinians are very scared of the Deal of the Century,” Lahiani told The Jerusalem Post.

In June, UN National Security Adviser John Bolton visited the Jordan Valley and said it was important for Israel’s security.

The PA holds that the Jordan Valley and all of Area C, which is now under Israeli military and civilian control, must be part of their future state.

In an opening statement at the beginning of the weekly PA cabinet meeting in Ramallah, Shtayyeh said that his government will study giving a grant “to any Palestinian university graduate who is prepared to live in Jordan Valley areas and villages, and work with the residents there on production projects.” Shtayyeh did not provide details about the proposed grant or “production projects.”

The Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea constitute almost 30% of the West Bank. Nearly 65,000 Palestinians and some 11,000 Jews live there. Palestinians have complained that Israel has plans to reduce the Palestinian population in the area by preventing them from using most of the arable land and imposing restrictions on house construction.

According to the Jerusalem-based left-wing human rights group B’Tselem, “Almost 90% of this region has been designated as Area C, the West Bank land which remains under full Israeli control, and constitutes nearly 40% of Area C.” The group noted that “the remaining 10% of the region is home to Palestinian communities, including the city of Jericho, which have been designated Area A or B,” and are partially or totally controlled by the PA.

Lahiani promised to increase enforcement against illegal Palestinian building and called on security forces to ensure that there won’t be any friction between Israelis and Palestinians as a result of Shtayyeh’s statements and plans.

Regavim’s international director Naomi Kahn said that Palestinians engaged in illegal building in Area C, including in IDF firing range 917 in the South Hebron Hills, already receive tax breaks and other perks from the PA.

Shtayyeh said that the PA has begun preparing files concerning the controversy over the tax revenues with Israel and all Israeli activities in Area C, especially quarries and other economic projects carried out by Israel there. He was referring to Israel’s deduction of funds – from tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the PA – for families of Palestinian security prisoners and “martyrs.”

Accusing Israel of “robbing” the funds, PA officials have said that they would lodge complaints against Israel with international forums over the deduction of the payments.

Shtayyeh strongly criticized Israel in the aftermath of the violence that erupted at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the Eid al-Adha holiday, which also fell on the Jewish holiday of Tisha Be’Av. He claimed that Israel was trying to change the status quo at the holy site by allowing “settlers to repeatedly carry out assaults there.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA government are continually following the situation in Jerusalem, Shtayyeh said. The Palestinians, he added, are in coordination with Jordan on this issue.

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