Israel is preparing to designate 370 acres (approx. 1,000 dunams) of agricultural land in the Jordan Valley as state land – and the the expected reactions of outrage are already starting from the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations. Even “concern” from the United States, before the ink is dry.
The land is located in Area C – legally under the control of Israel under the internationally-recognized Oslo Accords – and a bit north of the Jewish community of Almog.
Israel farmers have been working the land for several years. It is agricultural land. And yet, the world is screaming about Israel extending its “settlements.”
Why? Because the parcel is within driving distance of the city of Jericho, which is currently under the complete control of the Palestinian Authority, in Area A — which makes it fair game for the PA’s expansionist policies and fantasies, fed by the European Union and egged on by some Arab nations as well.
Legally, however, under current Israeli law land which lies fallow for several years automatically reverts back to government property; the law dates back to 1858, under the Ottoman Empire.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led the international chorus of condemnation Thursday with a statement on his website.
“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about reports of the Israeli Government authorizing the declaration of 370 acres in the West Bank, south of Jericho, as so-called ‘state land. Settlement activities are a violation of international law and run counter to the public pronouncements of the Government of Israel supporting a two-state solution to the conflict,” the statement said.
Likewise, U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said in a statement Tuesday, “We strongly oppose any steps that could accelerate settlement expansion and we believe they’re fundamentally incompatible with a two-state solution and call into question frankly the Israeli government’s commitment to a two-state solution.”
That wasn’t enough, however.
Palestinian Authority journalist Said Erikat of the Al Quds newspaper has become a professional at lobbying for the cause in the guise of asking questions as a reporter.
Following is a transcript of his exchange with Toner over the U.S. view of Israel’s designation of state land in the Jordan Valley.
TONER: Please, Said [Erikat of Al Quds). ERIKAT: Can we go on to Palestinian-Israeli issue?
TONER: Yep, sure. I think so, yeah.
ERIKAT: I know John responded at length to the comments made by Ambassador Shapiro yesterday, and he also commented on the report by – a human rights report – but – and your position on the settlement. But the Israelis today announced the expansion of settlements, about 1,000 dunams or 300 acres and so on. And my question to you – not pertaining to your stance on your settlements, which is quite clear – but it seems that the Israelis, every time there is a report or there is any – or there’s criticism by you, by the Europeans, they go ahead and they just, like, poke you in the eye and just take more land and expand the settlement. Is that a pattern that you see?
TONER: I don’t know if it’s a pattern, Said. I mean, we’re obviously aware of the reports —
ERIKAT: You can almost —
TONER: No, I know, we’re —
ERIKAT: You look at it and you can see it every time.
TONER: We’re – yeah, you’re referring to the decision, the defense ministry’s decision for – to declare some 400 acres in the Jordan Valley as — ERIKAT: Right.
TONER: — yeah, as state land, and that obviously appears to be, as we’ve seen before, a step towards building settlements in that area. I don’t know if it’s a pattern. I feel as though I sound like a broken record, but we strongly oppose any steps that could accelerate settlement expansion, and we believe they’re fundamentally incompatible with a two-state solution and call into question, frankly, the Israeli Government’s commitment to a two-state solution.