The Dead Sea area is the lowest point on Earth and the world’s saltiest body of water. It is renowned for its distinctive geographical, mineral and climatic features and is rich in natural resources. The wide variety of minerals present in the area permits the development of profitable cosmetic industries and raw materials, such as silt, sand, gravel and mud, are regularly extracted for these purposes.
Since 1967, Israel has unlawfully appropriated vast portions of Palestinian land in the occupied Dead Sea area primarily to establish settlements and through these exerting a firm control over the region, including over its natural resources. Through the implementation of harsh restrictions on planning and movement, the Israeli authorities have severely hampered the ability of Palestinians to use and access their land and other natural resources in the region. The presence of settlers who directly utilise and profit from the Dead Sea wealth has severely exacerbated this situation and contributed to the over exploitation of the area, resulting in severe environmental damage.
This report examines Israel’s responsibilities as an Occupying Power with respect to the treatment of the occupied territory’s natural resources in the Dead Sea area. By virtue of the temporary nature of the situation of occupation, Israel must be regarded only as the administrator of the natural resources belonging to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), and is obliged to administer them in accordance with the rule of usufruct. Accordingly, Israel is prohibited from exploiting them in a way that undermines their capital and results in economic benefits for Israeli citizens, including settlers, or for its national economy.
Israel’s practices in the occupied Dead Sea area represent blatant violations of its legal obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, since they favour Israeli economic interests while denying the Palestinian people their right to self-determination. The latter is considered a peremptory norm of international law, that is to say a norm that is binding on all States and from which no derogation is permitted.