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Cablegate: Palestinians Concerned About Israeli Development

VZCZCXRO5860
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHJM #2086 3251536
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 201536Z NOV 08
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3303
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS JERUSALEM 002086

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

EA FOR FRONT OFFICE; NEA/IPA FOR GOLDBERGER/LENTZ; NSC FOR
PASCUAL; TREASURY FOR AHERN
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO USAID FOR ANE/MEA:MCCLOUD/BORODIN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAID ETRD KWBG PREL IS
SUBJECT: PALESTINIANS CONCERNED ABOUT ISRAELI DEVELOPMENT
OF WEST BANK TOURISM SITES

1. (SBU) Summary: Palestinian businessmen and officials are
concerned about unilateral Israeli development of tourist
infrastructure in the West Bank. The PLO's Negotiations
Support Unit (NSU) considers these actions a form of illegal
settlement activity and notes that some of the sites are in
areas off-limits to Palestinians and Palestinian development.
Profits from these West Bank sites are remitted entirely to
Israel. The NSU reports that requests by the PA to develop
archaeological sites in Area C have been pending Israeli
approval for years. End summary.

GOI development continues in Palestinian territory...
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (SBU) Palestinian officials and private sector tour
operators are concerned over unilateral GOI developmet of
tourism sites in the West Bank. According o ConGen
contacts, there are three sites that th GOI plans to market
internationally as part of new "Pilgrim's Route": a
Baptismal site near Jricho, the "Good Samaritan" site, and
the Qumran aves near the Dead Sea. The Baptismal site, also
known as "Qasr al-Yehud," is located in an area o the Jordan
Valley that has been a closed militay zone since 1967.
Media report that the IsraeliMinistry of Tourism has
invested NIS 3.5 million USD 900,000) to develop the site,
and the Ministy of Defense will contribute NIS 1 million to
imrove the access road. The Good Samaritan site is ocated
off the highway from Jericho to the Dead ea and will open in
2009, according to the press. The Qumran caves, where the
Dead Sea Scrolls wee found by a Bedouin in 1974, are now
part of anIsraeli National Park located off the same highway
(Route 90).

3. (SBU) Officials at the NSU tol Econoff that they consider
Israeli investment, dvelopment, and operation of
archaeological and plgrimage sites in the West Bank as
illegal settlment construction.

...but doesn't benefit the Plestinian economy
---------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Hassan Saleh Hussein, Myor of Jericho, confirme to
Econoff that Israeli development of the site near Jericho is
not coordinated with the PA or te municipality. He also
stated that only Palestnians with local IDs (Jordan
Valley/Jericho regin) are permitted to use Route 90, and
that it wold be very difficult for Palestinian tour buses or
tour operators to reach these sites.

5. (SBU) he NSU notes that revenue generated from
developent of these archaeological sites (including entrace
and parking fees) will not benefit Palestinias, but rather
will be remitted entirely to the Iraeli economy.
Furthermore, because these areas ae in Area C and under
Israeli control, the NSU pedicts local Palestinians will be
unable to establish restaurants or souvenir shops nearby.

Palestinian development largely on hold
---------------------------------------

6. (SBU) In contrast, according to the NSU, requests by the
PA to develop archaeological sites in Area C for tourism
purposes have remained pending for years. The NSU said a
request to excavate and develop Sebastia (an important
archaeological site near Nablus) has been pending for over
eight years.
WALLES

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