You will never break our will, Palestinians tell Netanyahu

JIFTLIK, West Bank: Palestinians tilling the fertile Jordan Valley said on Wednesday they have been rooted for generations to the West Bank land that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to annex, and they vowed never to give it up.
“We tell Netanyahu, and whoever follows him, you will not break the Palestinians’ will, you will never break our will, never, never,” said Hassan al Abedi, a farmer who lives in the village of Jiftlik.
“It’s our parents’ and grandparents’ land. We will hold onto it no matter what it costs,” the 55-year-old Abedi said.
Drawing condemnation from Palestinian and other Arab leaders, the right-wing Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that he intended to “apply Israeli sovereignty” to the Jordan Valley and adjacent northern Dead Sea if he prevailed in what is shaping up as a tough battle for re-election on September 17.
Palestinians seek to establish a state in all of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and their leaders said Israeli annexation would violate international law and effectively nullify 1990 interim peace deals that included security cooperation.
Against the backdrop of Jordan’s desert mountain range to the east, Palestinian farmers tended their crops and worried about their future in an area where the town of Jericho and the River Jordan are reminders of a biblical past.
“This is not Netanyahu’s land to give,” said Ismael Hassan, a Palestinian from the Jordan Valley village of Zbeidat, which sits 27 kilometres north of Jericho.
“Whether or not Netanyahu succeeds (in the election) we won’t accept it. This land is for Palestine, for the Palestinians,” Hassan, 75 said.
In Israel, which captured the West Bank in a 1967 war, Netanyahu’s declaration was widely seen as a bid to siphon away support from far-right election rivals who have long advocated annexation of Jewish settlements in the territory.
Political commentators said Netanyahu had been emboldened to announce his plan by his close relationship with US President Donald Trump, who has already recognised Israeli sovereignty over a strategic slice of occupied territory – the Golan Heights – that Israel annexed in 1981.
Some 53,000 Palestinians and around 12,800 Israeli settlers live in the part of the Jordan Valley that Netanyahu intends to annex, according to Peace Now, a settlement watchdog. The main Palestinian city in the region is Jericho, with around 28 villages and smaller Bedouin communities.
Palestinians often refer to the Jordan Valley as their “breadbasket”. In his speech on Tuesday, Netanyahu described it as Israel’s eastern border.
The valley, which at 2,400 sq km accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the West Bank, has dozens of Palestinian farms as well as open areas which the Palestinian Authority has sought to develop for solar energy projects and industrial zones. There are some 30 mainly agricultural Jewish settlements in the area, along with 18 smaller outposts, Peace Now says.
“It’s impossible to have a Palestinian state without the Jordan Valley,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in an interview from his office in Jericho. — Agencies