An interesting article I read today in the Middle East Times states that the creation of an Israeli-Jordanian “Peace Park” in the Jordan Valley is underway. This “Friends of the Earth” project has several objectives as the name implies. The first is to create a “neutral zone” (which kind of sounds like something out of Star Trek) where both Jordanian and Israeli visitors can walk right in and around without a visa or permit or the hassles of border crossings.
Gidon Bromberg, director of the Israeli branch of Friends of the Earth, says this neutral zone will create dialogue.
The second objective is to increase awareness about the terrible condition of the Jordan River that has drastically been reduced in size over the years to practically a trickle. Most of the area is a military controlled area (which I suppose is ironic considering its historical/religious significance), so most people don’t get to see just what’s going on down there.
This is all in the planning stage. While it has received the blessings and support of the Israeli ministry of tourism, such government support from Jordan is yet to emerge. It is indeed a question of security first and foremost.
Ironically if this “Peace Park” comes to be, Palestinians will not be allowed to enter it.
As a general rule today, Palestinians are not allowed to enter the Jordan Valley as Israel has been following a policy of annexing the Jordan Valley and virtually separating it from the rest of the West Bank. Palestinians who have farmlands in the Valley but do not live there are not allowed to access their land anymore hence the agriculturally based Palestinian villages which surround the area have lost their livelihood. Only Palestinians with ID cards are allowed to enter and if other visitors wish to do the same a special permit from the Civil Administration is required.
Now Israel has been unable to build a physical wall such as which runs around most of the West Bank now, to separate the Valley from the rest of Palestine but has instead followed a policy of severe restrictions and permanent checkpoints to hinder Palestinian movement on their own land. Under Oslo the Valley is considered Area C (under complete Israeli control) and Israel continues to build settlements there and declare them to be state land.
What this means is that if there is ever a Palestinian state in the future it will be an island surrounded by Israeli territories on all sides. This plan was kept in the shadows until recently when Ehud Olmert announced publicly that he does in fact plan to annex the Jordan Valley when drawing Israel’s desired borders, in order to encircle any future Palestinian state; one that will apparently be created on Israel’s terms. Palestine will be isolated from access to any neighbor other than Israel.
I guess I don’t have to say anything about what this will mean to Palestinians, water, land and livelihood.
But don’t jump to any conclusions and assume that just because the whole West Bank is about to be surrounded that this in any way implies that Palestinians are in some sort of “prison”. We don’t like to use that term here. It’s more like a “zoo” where you can take a tour around the whole area and watch the animals in their natural habitat contained of course by checkpoints, guards, snipers, walls and barbed wire. Well, except in this zoo you can technically interact with the animals (for you know reasons of dialogue and such) so I guess a better term would be a “park”.
Yes! A Peace Park!