PA cabinet convenes in Jordan Valley in protest of Netanyahu’s annexation vow
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PA cabinet convenes in Jordan Valley in protest of Netanyahu’s annexation vow

Meeting chaired by Palestinian PM comes a day after Israel held a government gathering nearby and voted to legalize an outpost

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh greeting residents of Fasayil, a Palestinian village in the Jordan Valley, on September 16, 2019. (Wafa)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh greeting residents of Fasayil, a Palestinian village in the Jordan Valley, on September 16, 2019. (Wafa)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh chaired a weekly meeting of his cabinet on Monday in the Jordan Valley and vowed his government will support the development of Palestinian agriculture in the region.

The PA gathering came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also led a government meeting in the area, after pledging last week to annex most of the territory to Israel if he is reelected following Tuesday’s national vote.

“We, the Council of Ministers, are here to affirm our complete commitment to doing everything we can to strengthen the steadfastness of our people on its land and making the Jordan Valley, as it was in the past, Palestine’s fruit and vegetable garden,” Shtayyeh said at the outset of the gathering in Fasayil, a village of some 1,500 in the area that has recently been plagued by power outages.

Many Palestinians and Israelis farmers are based in the Jordan Valley, where they grow produce such as bananas and dates.

Shtayyeh claimed that his government had decided to hold the cabinet meeting in Fasayil more than a month ago, suggesting it did not come directly in response to Sunday’s Israeli government meeting outside an adjacent settlement, during which ministers approved a proposal to start legalizing the Mevo’ot Yeriho outpost.

A Bedouin shepherd walks with his herd of sheep in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, on September 11, 2019. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

PA cabinet meetings usually take place in Ramallah.

The PA prime minister also thanked the countries that condemned Netanyahu’s promise to annex the Jordan Valley to Israel, representing about one-quarter of the West Bank, if he is given another term in office.

A number of European, Arab, and other states blasted Netanyahu’s vow, with many of them saying it would be “a violation of international law.”

Shtayyeh added that the Palestinians will sue Israel in international courts for “exploiting our land,” claiming that Israelis have planted more than a million palm trees in the West Bank since 1967.

He did not state in which specific court or courts the Palestinians intend to take the legal action against Israel.

The Palestinians hope to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank including the Jordan Valley, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points at a map of the Jordan Valley as he gives a statement, promising to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

The Trump administration is expected to release its long-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace plan after the Israeli elections on Tuesday, with its political vision still unknown. The Palestinians have said they will reject any US proposal out of hand and are boycotting the White House over a series of diplomatic steps seen as biased in Israel’s favor.

Netanyahu’s vow to annex the Jordan Valley has been panned as an election ploy, with critics saying he could have done it at any time in recent years if he really wanted to. But the prime minister said the timing was part of a process.

“There are stages that have to happen,” Netanyahu told Army Radio on Sunday. “I caused them (the Trump administration) to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, after that to move the embassy there and then recognize our sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”

“And now after immense diplomatic efforts, I am laying the groundwork for applying Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley as our eastern defensive wall, and after that, over all the settlements, and over other vital areas, inside the (settlement) blocs and outside the blocs,” Netanyahu said. “And all that, I want to do together with President Trump.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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