Thousands of Palestinians in the streets to protest against Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley

Jericho is the scene of the first mass protest against Israel's US-backed plan. For demonstrators, there is no Palestinian state "without the valley". Annexation will strangle Palestinians, says a resident of the disputed area. For B’Tselem, the goal is to make life "impossible" to force Palestinians to flee.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thousands of people took to the streets in Jericho for the first time to protest against the US Mideast peace plan. Defying COVID-19 restrictions, they shouted that there is no Palestinian state "without the Jordan valley" and that Palestine "is not for sale"

Since annexation plans were announced in January, scores of small protests have been taking place, but in the last few hours, they have grown as tensions escalate.

Palestinians and many Israelis are opposed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan, which should take shape on on 1 July.

Israel’s new government, agreed by Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz, wants to annex Palestinians territories, including the Jordan valley, and legalise settlements.

The Israeli Supreme Court has rejected the plan. UN experts have called it the “21st century apartheid”. The Church in the Holy Land describes it as a “serious and catastrophic" policy backed by the US as part of its "deal of the century".

Fatah has called for Palestinians to mobilise, convinced of growing international opposition to the project. For Saeb Erakat, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the opposition includes “Arab countries, [and] non-aligned nations of Africa and Europe".

On the ground, tensions continue to rise, as evinced by what is happening in Al-Maleh, one of the disputed places in the Jordan valley where Jewish settlers and Palestinian live separately and do everything to avoid each other.

"We are already suffocating,” said Ibrahim Najada, a resident of the area, speaking to French daily Le Monde. “If annexation takes place, I will be completely strangled."

For Israel, the area has a strategic importance both economically (agriculture) and politically (border with Jordan).

The annexation "is a means, not an end" for Israel to "establish colonial rule from the Mediterranean to the Jordan," notes Lubnah Shomali, director of the Palestinian NGO Badil.

Amit Gilutz, spokesman for the Israeli anti-occupation movement B’Tselem, agrees.  The Israeli government's goal is to "make life impossible for Palestinians, to force them to flee.”