Jewish settlers furious at Israeli government plans for Bedouin city

Nueimeh, in the Jordan Valley, is slated to become the home to tens of thousands of Palestinians

Yusra Yousef, a 77-year-old Palestinian refugee, holds a key she says belongs to a house her family were forced to leave after the establishment of Israel in 1948. Photograph: Reuters

Yusra Yousef, a 77-year-old Palestinian refugee, holds a key she says belongs to a house her family were forced to leave after the establishment of Israel in 1948. Photograph: Reuters

 

Jewish settlers have reacted angrily to plans by the Israeli government to hand over parts of the West Bank for the construction of a new Palestinian city near Jericho.

Nueimeh, in the Jordan Valley, the West Bank’s eastern border, is slated to become the home to tens of thousands of Palestinians. In order to build the new city Israel’s military authorities plan to transfer large areas of land currently under the jurisdiction of the Jordan Valley settlers’ council.

An official from the settlers’ council told the Ma’ariv newspaper that the plans were absurd. “The government is freezing construction for Jews, while it gives the Palestinians state lands as a gift.”

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has stated that Israel must maintain a security presence in the Jordan Valley under any peace deal to protect Israel’s eastern flank. The international community regards Israel’s occupation of the West Bank as illegal, a position Israel disputes.


North of Jericho
Some 1,140 homes are scheduled to be built in the new community, just north of Jericho, in the first stage of construction. Nueimeh’s first neighbourhood will be for individual homes built on private plots.

Human rights groups have accused Israel of blocking the development of Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley , destroying homes of Palestinian Bedouin communities and denying them access to water. Israel hopes that local Bedouin , who currently live in the Jordan Valley without Israeli permits, will choose to move to the new city.

However, Jordan Valley settlers’ council chairman David Elhayani, accused the government of giving a prize to Bedouin, who, he claimed, were squatting.

Construction of new urban centres for Palestinians is extremely rare in the West Bank.

The first residents are expected to move this summer to another new Palestinian city, Rawabi, situated between Nablus and Ramallah. Rawabi, with a target population of 40,000, is aimed at middle class Palestinians, put off by the high price of accommodation in the Ramallah and Jerusalem areas.