U.S.: Land Rezoning ‘Calls Into Question Israeli Intentions on Peace’

Jordan Valley farmland. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90
Jordan Valley farmland. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The State Department Wednesday night condemned an Israeli move to reclassify 1,400 dunams (150 hectares) of currently unincorporated land in the Jordan Valley as state land. In a statement, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that the move was “ incompatible with a two-state solution.”

At issue was a declaration Wednesday by the government that it was rezoning the land in the Jordan Valley as state land, a required step before development of the land for any usage. Currently the land is classified as a nature reserve, but the land has been used for over a decade by Jewish residents of the Jordan Valley community of Almog as farmland.

The land, located north of the Dead Sea and south of Yericho, is at the end of Road 1, the east-west highway that terminates in Tel Aviv, and is located in Area C, which is under Israeli civil and military control. There are no Arab claims registered on it, and there are no Arab villages in the area.

This is the biggest rezoning of land by the government since August 2014, when 3,800 dunams (325 hectares) of land in Gush Etzion were rezoned. That move generated harsh condemnation from the U.N., EU, and the U.S.

In a statement, the Zionist Camp party said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “is doing everything he can not to separate from the Palestinians, and to poke a finger into the eye of Israel’s best friends in the international community. Israel needs to separate from the Palestinians, while retaining the large settlement blocs, and it needs to stop building in every corner just to spite the world.”

Speaking to Army Radio, Meretz head Zehava Gal-on said that “Israel is once again defying the rest of the world. The constant seeping annexation testifies to Israel’s intention to remain in all parts of the Land of Israel forever, and thus, as the prime minister put it, to force us to ‘live by the sword’ forever, too.”

In his statement, Toner said that the U.S. “strongly opposes any steps that could accelerate settlement expansion.” The move, he added, “calls into question frankly the Israeli government’s commitment to a two-state solution.”