Palestinians fear that the Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank will further limit access to the beautiful and lucrative Dead Sea. In May, Israel announced plans to recognize most of the Israeli settlements on already occupied Palestinian land, specifically about 30% of the West Bank, as officially part of Israel. Support for this plan has been given by United States President Donald Trump, while Palestinians have voiced outrage against it.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth. It is rich in minerals and considered to be one of the natural wonders of the world. For millions of years, visitors have traveled from around the world to swim in its hypersaline waters and rub the nutrient-rich mud on their skin.
“This place is a blessing for all Palestinians, but if there will be annexation it will be hard for them to reach here. They may need permits,” Musa Farah, a lifeguard at one of the small, Israeli-run resorts on the Dead Sea’s West Bank coast, told Reuters.
“My business will be very much affected,” Dina Dagan, owner of the Biankini Village Resort told Reuters. “The Israeli government should know that my business depends on the Palestinians who visit here. This place is open for Jews and Arabs.”
The Dead Sea is also a valuable economic commodity. Israel has established a profitable tourism sector, as well as lucrative industries focused on extracting the Dead Sea’s valuable natural resources. These business ventures, including private beach resorts and the cosmetic company AHAVA that makes skin care products from Dead Sea minerals, enjoy huge profits from the Dead Sea, all while Palestininans are excluded from pursuing similar opportunities on their own land.
Palestinians consider the West Bank to be illegally occupied Palestinian land. Israel took control of the land after the 1967 Middle East War. It is illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention for an occupying power to allow parts of its population to transfer into the territory it is occupying. This means the settlements that Israel established in the West Bank, Palestinian land, is prohibited under the Geneva Convention because Israel transported some of their population into occupied Palestinian territory. Israel argues they have a biblical right to the land.
While Israel has profited greatly from their illegal occupation of the land, the Palestinian economy loses an estimated $1.4 billion annually, according to the World Bank. In 2013, the World Bank conservatively estimated that the Palestinian economy would be boosted by $918 million a year if they were allowed to extract minerals from the Dead Sea, and by $126 million if they were allowed to benefit from the tourism industry.
Further, the World Bank estimated that an additional $704 million a year could be added to the Palestinian economy if they had better access to farmland in parts of the West Bank that is currently being occupied by Israel, the Jordan Valley. The Jordan Valley partially borders the Dead Sea and is included in the Israeli annexation proposal.
“Along the Jordan Valley you have immensely rich agricultural land. It’s hard to see frankly how in the future you’re going to have a Palestinian state that doesn’t include that,” Tony Blair, who represents the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers, told BBC News in 2013.
In November of 2013, an elderly woman in the village of Abu al-Ajaj named Jamilla Adeis spoke to BBC news about her worries for the future. “The Israelis don’t want us to live here. They want to kick us out and give the land to the settlers so that they can plant dates,” she said.
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