International law forbids Israel to exploit the resources of the occupied territory. Accordingly, the High Court of Justice ruled that Israel must refrain from treating the West Bank as an “an open field for economic exploitation.” Despite this, since its occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Israel has systematically exploited the resources of the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area to a greater extent and more intensively than elsewhere in the West Bank. It has controlled the area’s major tourist sites and natural resources, including its minerals, its fertile land, and its water sources.
Tourists visiting the site of Kumeran Caves. Photo: Keren Manor, Activestills.org, 13 March 2011.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority operates the principal tourist sites in the area: the Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls, now on display at the Israel Museum, and Ein Fashkha Springs, with its springs of varying temperatures, both located in the northern Dead Sea area; the Wadi Qelt nature reserve, west of Jericho, which has ancient monasteries; and Qasr al-Yehud, east of Jericho, the site where, according to Christian tradition, John baptized Jesus.
Israeli bathing beach Bianqini, on the northern Dead Sea. Photo: Keren Manor, 13 March 2011, Activestills.org.
The northern shores of the Dead Sea are managed by Israeli settlements or by Israeli entrepreneurs. On these shores, it is possible for the bathers to use the black mineral mud. Israel makes it difficult for Palestinians to develop tourism. The restrictions on movement imposed by Israel around the city of Jericho make it hard for tourists to reach the city and the few tourist sites located there. Jericho is considered the oldest city in the world, and in 2010 celebrated 10,000 years since its founding.
Production room at AHAVA, which produces cosmetics based on the Dead Sea’s high-mineral-content mud. Photo: Keren Manor, 13 March 2011, Activestills.org.
Israel has allowed Israeli entrepreneurs to use the area’s natural resources. The Israeli cosmetics firm that produces goods under the brand name Ahava utilizes the high-mineral-content mud of the Dead Sea for a variety of cosmetic products, most intended for export. East of the Mizpe Hashahar settlement, an Israeli company operates a large quarry for mining building materials.
Kochav Hashahar quarry. Photo: Keren Manor, Activestills, 8 Feb. 2011.
Israel also uses the Jordan Valley also for the disposal of environmental nuisances. Wastewater from the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem (both Israeli neighborhoods built on land of the West Bank annexed to the city, and Palestinian neighborhoods), along with wastewater from the Adumim Bloc settlements, flow to two facilities in the northern Dead Sea. There the wastewater undergoes initial or partial treatment and is then transported to the settlements for irrigation purposes. In the central Jordan Valley, Israel built the Tuvlan waste disposal facility. Waste from settlements in the area and from elsewhere in the West Bank, such as Ariel and the Barkan industrial area, is buried there.