The Palestinian Authority has expelled the Bedouin tribes from the Jericho area in favor of establishing the “Moon City” vacation village, TPS has learned.
While the PA claims that Israel is working toward “ethnic cleansing and the expulsion of the Bedouin from their lands” in Khan al-Ahmar, it is the one expelling the Bedouin who have settled in the Jericho area.
About four years ago, Saeb Erekat, then a senior PA official, acted to prevent the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar and to establish the Bedouin presence in the area. Along with his opposition to all the Israeli proposals in their case, Erekat initiated an idea in which the PA granted 32 plots, 850 square meters each, to the Bedouin families of the Ka’abna tribe, in a move designed to strengthen their presence in the area and prevent Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley.
PA officials and some Bedouin leaders claim that Erekat also acted to prevent any settlement between the Bedouin from Khan al-Ahmar and Israel, and said at Palestinian leadership meetings that “Israel must lose points in the international arena.”
As part of the efforts aimed at persuading the Abu Dahuk family of the Jahalin tribe to stay in Khan al-Ahmar, which establishes the PA’s grip on Area E1 south of Jerusalem and prevents an Israeli takeover of the area, Erekat initiated the idea.
The Bedouin in the area now claim that “we have done our part and are being thrown away again” and say that as the threat of Israel’s annexation of the area has disappeared and as Israel refrained from evacuating Khan al-Ahmar, the PA changed its attitude towards them and in recent months expelled the Bedouin families from Jericho to make way for the establishment of the Palestinian “Moon City”, which is being built in huge sums and will be the largest tourism venture in the region.
Sources in the Bedouin tribes say that “when it became clear in the past year that the land we received at Erekat’s initiative was at the entrance to the Moon City and had doubled in value, the Palestinian Authority began to deport us.”
Other families in Jericho have received demolition and eviction orders from the PA. The Jericho governor’s offices told the Bedouin that any building they built in Area A would be considered illegal and therefore likely to be demolished.
The Bedouin further claim that Tarek Abbas, the son of PA head Mahmoud Abbas, along with the Palestinian Investment Fund and the large corporations, are behind the decision to deport the 28 families. Following their deportation about a month ago, several families from the Ka’abana tribe immigrated from Jericho and settled near the Israeli community of Kochav Hashahar, at the initiative of the Palestinian Committee for the Struggle against the Settlements, which established a permanent school for them.
As in Khan al-Ahmar, the Bedouin in Jericho were “recruited” to be “soldiers for the protection of the Palestinian Authority’s lands,” according to one of them, while the PA has evicted them and deprived them of any proper solution.
Israel has recently examined the possibility of reopening the Palestinian casino in Jericho as part of a tourism package that will be a major source of income for the depleted PA coffers.
The casino, if opened, will be part of a grandiose tourism program. Last October, Abbas inaugurated the huge tourism project in the Jericho area, which includes resorts and tourist attractions, a huge aquarium, and also the “Moon City” which will house 1,500 holiday units for domestic and foreign tourism.
The “Moon City” will cover 1,800 dunams and cost about $500 million. The city will have residential neighborhoods, a commercial area, tourist sites and entertainment centers. Green public areas will cover an area of 600,000 square meters, and commercial space will be 130,000 square meters. The city will offer 10 residential neighborhoods, villas and tourist cabins.
But this is not just a tourism venture. The city is planned to be built in a “strategic area that will not allow Israel to develop the settlements in the area,” as Muhammad Mustafa, head of the Palestinian Investment Fund that finances the establishment, said “the construction of the city will strengthen the Palestinian residents in the Jordan Valley area.
“The development of the Jordan Valley is one of our main goals as it is a disputed Palestinian area and we are working to increase the Palestinian population in the area and protect the area from Israeli occupation and prevent the expansion of Israeli settlements,” he underscored.