by: Elior Levy
Friday, 5 June 2020 | Talks of Israel’s plans to annex strategic parts of the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] have drawn criticism from world leaders and prompted the Palestinian Authority [PA] to declare they are severing all ties with the Israeli government. The plans seem to affect everyone, except people in the very heart of the conflict—the Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley.
The area at the start of what appears to be a tumultuous summer is warm and solemn. There is not a single sign or banner protesting the United States Mideast peace proposal or Israel’s plans to annex the area.
One of the local residents, Abu Tarek, who lives in the Palestinian village of Al-Auja near Jericho on Highway 90, quietly drinks his coffee and seems unbothered by the annexation talk.
“I’m a Palestinian who wants to live under Palestinian sovereignty,” he explains. “You Israelis, would you prefer to live under a leadership that is not Israeli?”
But it seems the issue does not bother Tarek too much as he immediately begins to talk about his heard of sheep and the economic [effect] coronavirus has had on the area.
Tarek is far more preoccupied with the financial reality than the diplomatic one.
When the subject of annexation comes back, he shrugs it off, saying he is not even sure the plan will go through at all.
“For now, it’s all just talk,” he says.
Ali, a 62-year-old pensioner who is sipping coffee not far from Abu Tarek, reiterates the sentiments.
“Israel already pretty much controls this region, so what does it matter if they annex it or not? It will all stay the same,” said Ali. “The only thing that matters is that people here are going to have jobs.”
Ali worked his whole life as a farmer for the neighboring Jewish communities. Three of his sons also work in agriculture for the local Jewish communities and the fourth works as a clerk for the PA in Jericho.
“As far as I’m concerned, let the Americans annex the region,” says another local resident, who introduced himself as Al-Auja. “Why does it matter who’s in charge?” he adds.
He refused to give his real name, saying that he might be harassed for voicing such a controversial opinion.
“When Salam Fayyad was Palestinian prime minister and visited here, he heard that a lot of people work for Jewish settlers, he got mad and called on them to work for Palestinian employers,” Al-Auja says.
“We explained that there are no available jobs [in the PA] and he said he will make sure there will be in the future. We’re still waiting for those jobs.”
A few kilometers north, we see a plant nursery. The owner greets us warmly and shows us what his shop has to offer. When we ask him if he is troubled by the possibility of annexation, he brushes it off, saying, “Forget about that, have a look at my planters, they’re on sale.”
At the village of Fasayil (part of the Jericho Governorate) we meet with its head councilman Ibrahim Abiaat. He says that a few days ago he got a bill from [the] Israel Electric Corporation for a transformer they installed in the village.
“They always bill it [to] the Palestinian Authority and now all of a sudden they bill me directly,” he says. “Maybe it’s an early sign of annexation.”
Abiaat clarified, however, no officials spoke with him about the issue, not even those from the PA.
“For now, nothing is happening,” he says. “If annexation does go through—we will know how to respond accordingly.”
Posted on June 5, 2020
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