The news coverage of settlement building in the Jordan Valley comes in fragments. A story of a Palestinian’s uprooted trees here, a description of harassment of farmers there, and talk of big new settlement developments forever around the corner. But an eye on the bigger picture is critical, and this is more important as the ominous American-led “deal of the century” develops.
Illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land have been one of the biggest flashpoints of the conflict after the Oslo Accords, and are seen by the international community as one of the biggest barriers to peace. But now, Israel has an unprecedented level of support in Washington, with the Trump administration making clear it wants a victory of Israeli over Palestinian interests.
This looks set to exacerbate settlement building across the West Bank. Zena Agha, a policy fellow at the Al-Shabaka think-tank told Al Bawaba:
“Settlement activity has been a constant feature in the occupied Palestinian territories irrespective of the national or international political climate. However, since the Trump administration came to power there has been an upsurge in the Israeli settlement drive. This is due directly to the carte blanche that the administration – many of whom have strong links to settler groups – has given Israel.
Not only are more and more settlements getting approved or retroactively legalised, but Israel is also brazenly targeting strategically significant parts of the Palestinian territories such as the E1 corridor between Jerusalem and the Ma’ale Adumim settlement. If Washington’s handling of ‘final status’ issues such as Jerusalem or Palestinian refugees is any indication, Trump’s elusive “peace deal” is unlikely to hold Israel to account for its settlement project.”
In the Jordan Valley in particular, the right-wing Israeli government of Benyamin Netanyahu has big plans for settlement expansion. However, the plans are not yet complete, and while they are still underway, the peacemakers need to keep watch.