Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir / Flash 90
View of Kibbutz Afikim, in the Jordan Valley, December 03, 2018

The Palestinian Authority (PA) government held a meeting last week at Fasayil in the Jordan Valley in solidarity with Arab residents of the area, during which PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced that the PA will cancel all the residents’ debts to the PA and pay their electricity bills.

The PA has undertaken to excavate water wells for the supply of three and a half million cubic meters of water and to renovate a well in Al-Auja for the supply of 600,000 cubic meters to the residents of the area.

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In addition, the Authority will purchase five tractors for the agricultural associations in the area, provide loans to investors in the agricultural sector, and purchase two firefighter trucks, mobile clinics and an ambulance.

The PA further intends to establish a working women’s cooperative to prevent them from having to work in Israeli communities.

The Authority is examining the possibility of establishing of 11 solar power plants and the establishment of a NIS 11.5 million infrastructure.

One of the important steps the Authority is taking to encourage construction is the 75% exemption from building taxes for new homes in the Jordan Valley.

The Authority will allocate 30 engineering and agriculture scholarships, set up a post office and a bank branch in Al-Auja and Jeftlik.

At the government meeting, the PA pledged to provide incentives for investors and bonuses and grants such as those provided to eastern Jerusalem residents.

The Authority will also establish three schools and install air conditioners in all schools, and sanitation systems will be installed in 15 schools.

Another step is the allocation of state land for young people to set up agricultural projects in the Valley.

In the meantime, residents of the Arab villages in the Jordan Valley are expressing concern over the loss of some 7,000 dunams of agricultural land in the area if it is annexed by Israel.

TPS reported in April that the PA is working to collapse Israeli agriculture in the Jordan Valley while preventing workers from the PA from working in the Israeli agricultural areas of the Valley.

PA officials claimed they were working to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), but the PA’s goal is to reduce the Israeli presence in the Valley for political reasons and has intensified its activity since the unveiling of the US’ Deal of the Century peace plan, farmers in the Jordan Valley have told TPS.

Since the Corona crisis, the Palestinian Authority has been working to stop the work of tens of thousands of Palestinian workers in the Israeli communities.

Many testimonies given to TPS, including videos, recordings, photos and meetings with Palestinian workers of the Valley, indicate that PA and Fatah officials have threatened the workers and prohibited them from accessing the Israeli palm groves, greenhouses and agricultural areas in the Jordan Valley.

The threats were made by phone, and in a number of cases, the PA confiscated the vehicles of labor organizers who violated their directives.

Israeli farmers told TPS that families of workers from the surrounding villages said that some of the labor organizers’ family members were arrested in Jericho as hostages and as a means of pressure.

Workers from the Arab villages of Aqraba, Tubas and Tamoun were returned to their villages by the PA and were prohibited from going to work for Israelis in the Valley.

Bus drivers who drove them to work were called to the Authority and had their driver’s licenses confiscated while being forced to sign a commitment not to drive workers to the work for Israelis in the Jordan Valley.

Workers claim that the Fatah and PA operatives have raided houses of workers and even Israeli farms and sought out those who continued to work in the Valley, receiving tipoffs by paid snitches.

The Arab workers told their employers that “Israel seems to have decided to abandon us to the Palestinian Authority and is eliminating decades of agricultural work and neighborly relations in the Valley.”

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