The largest tourism project in the Palestinian-controlled territories in the West Bank is taking off. This week, bulldozers, funded by Palestinian company Padico Holdings, began construction work on the Gate of Jericho.

The ambitious plan will include the establishment of a series of hotels that will include hundreds of rooms, swimming pools, water slides, restaurants and cafes.

The Gate of Jericho project will stretch across a huge area, about 740 acres wide, south of Jericho, toward the Dead Sea, over a swath of land in the Palestinian-controlled Area A. In recent years, the land was covered in palm trees belonging to Padico.

The holding company’s new plan was approved by Israel, partly because the construction in its entirety is taking place in Palestinian-controlled area. Padico, the largest Palestinian company in the West Bank, is owned by the billionaire Munib al-Masri, who lives in Nablus. The company oversees dozens of projects throughout the Middle East.

Munib al-Masri is said to be the world's richest Palestinian (photo credit: Raphael Ahren/The Times of Israel)

Munib al-Masri (photo credit: Raphael Ahren/The Times of Israel)

Besides its ambitious tourism project, it is clear that the PA has made significant efforts to settle the area around Jericho in the Jordan Valley, in order to establish control of land.

In addition to the Gate of Jericho, the Palestinian Investment Fund, headed by Deputy PA Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa, has laid out plans for a large residential neighborhood in Naiima, close to the city. The neighborhood is called Medinat Qamar, or the city of the moon. The investment fund has now begun planning of a second neighborhood, Medinat Qamar 2.

The intent of the Authority is to strengthen the Palestinian presence in the West Bank, though the only area where Palestinians can build without Israeli approval is around Jericho.