During 2015, Jordan Valley settlements appropriated 600 dunams (150 acres) of Palestinian farmland in an area that is off-limits to Palestinians for “security reasons.”
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After the West Bank was occupied in 1967, the Israel Defense Forces issued Military Order 151, which prohibits Palestinians from entering the area between the border fence and the Jordan River. This order remained in effect even after the signing of the peace treaty with Jordan.
The area contains tens of thousands of dunams of Palestinian-owned land that was cultivated by the Palestinians until they were shut out.
Because the Jordan River passes through the area, the land is especially fertile and good for agriculture. In the early 1980s, the Ministerial Committee on Settlement Affairs issued a resolution permitting armed Jewish residents of the Jordan Valley to cultivate government-owned land in the area. Ariel Sharon instructed settler leaders to cultivate the entire area, going beyond the provisions of the resolution.
In January 2013, Haaretz reported that 5,000 dunams of these lands were being cultivated by the settlers, many of them after receiving land allocations from the World Zionist Organization in the ‘80s.
In the wake of that report, two petitions were submitted to the High Court of Justice. During the hearings on those petitions it emerged that some of the plots from which the Palestinians were being blocked were actually west of the border fence. A new, corrected order is meant to be issued shortly.
As for the Palestinian plots that are being farmed by settlers, the state refused to take a position and instead is trying to come to an agreement with the Palestinians on compensation, so far without success.
Now it turns out that despite the High Court hearings and the efforts by the IDF General Staff to address the issue, in 2015 settlers began cultivating an additional 600 dunams owned by Palestinians in three different parts of the border zone.
Until Haaretz contacted them, neither the army nor the Civil Administration was aware of the new land grabs, and it is not clear what they plan to do about it.
Last month, settlement researcher and left-wing activist Dror Etkes criticized what he called “the harmonious coexistence between what is called ‘security concerns’ and the ongoing enterprise of theft and expropriation [of Palestinian lands] by the government, which has flourished for the past 50 years.”
As Etkes put it, “We can assume that had they not petitioned the court, the situation would have stayed the same for many more years.”
Taufiq Jabrin, a lawyer representing some of the Palestinians, said “the state pretty much confessed to doing something illegal, but they have yet to decide what they want to do with it .... There is nothing to talk about, we want our land back.”
The IDF Spokesman said in response: “The IDF views the keeping of law and order and protecting the property and land rights of the residents with the utmost importance. with regard to the matter in question, it is being adjudicated the the High Court, and once a decision is made we will act in accrdance. In addition, the matters raised will be looked into by the proper authorities.