Israel has announced a plan to double the size of its settlements in the strategic Jordan Valley area in the West Bank. The move was announced in Haaretz daily financial paper The Marker. The plan foresee’s a doubling in agriculture areas given to settlers in the region.The settler department of the Zionist Federation proposed new plan for the Jordan Valley, which is expected to be approved by the Agriculture Ministry, will raise to 80 Durnams the amount of land given individually to settler farmers, an increase of 130%. The plan also raises from 30 cubic metres to 51 cubic metres of water per settler farmer per year in an area already plauged by water shortages for Palestinian farmers.

The plan is designed to accomodate the growth of current settlements as well as attract new settler families to the resource rich Valley, according to the Zionest Federation.

Human rights organisation BT Selem has strongly critisized Israeli settlement and natural resource exploitation policies in the mineral and resource rich region. The organisation reported extensive exploitation of water and mineral resources such as rock and dead sea minerals as well as the financial exploitation of religious and other tourist sites in the area by the Israeli state.

The head of the settlement department, Yaron ben Ezra, claimed the value of agricultural goods in the region reached NIS 458m in 2010 not including Palestinian farmers output.

The Jordan Vally is the most resource and mineral rich area of Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Israel has extensively targetted the region for Israeli settlement allowing it to divert the local resources from Palestinian use as well as creating a defensive ‘buffer zone’ between Israel and Jordan.

A recent opinion pole by the Israeli Association for Civil Rights showed that most Israeli’s are unaware that the Jordan Valley is occupied under international law and that Palestinians constitute the the majority of residents in the area.