Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday braved the rain to take a strong stand in support of retaining the Jordan Valley in any future status agreement with the Palestinians.

“We can not secure the state of Israel without maintaining control of the Jordan Valley,” he said, clarifying that Israel should have both a military and a civilian presence in the valley, which is located over pre-1967 lines.

Palestinians have insisted that it be handed over to them as part of a two-state solution.

But Liberman on Wednesday rejected that idea: “The Jordan Valley settlements have contributed to the state and its security. They should remain where they are. We should be looking to strengthen them.”

Standing under two umbrellas, he spoke with the press atop the highest hilltop peak in the area, overlooking both the valley and the neighboring state of Jordan. This is the best way to illustrate the importance of the valley, Liberman said, pointing at nearby Jordan, which was hidden by clouds and fog.

The center of the country is just over these hills, he added.

He said it is clear that the Jordan Valley is one of the more sensitive topics in the negotiations, and the state is carefully weighing whether it can be given to the Palestinians or if an international force should be stationed there.

“I am looking at what is happening in Syria and the whole region,” Liberman said, adding that regional upheavals have helped clarify that Israel cannot risk losing the Jordan Valley.

In support of his security assessment, Liberman cited a military expert, Yigal Allon, who also believed the valley had strategic importance to Israel.“He did not belong to the Right or the Left,” he said. “What he said in 1967 is even more true today.”

Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Lahiani said that Liberman had always strongly supported the region.

Lahiani pointed to how, in December 2010, Liberman had insisted that all Israeli ambassadors tour the region.

But this was his first official visit since he took the post of Foreign Minister in 2009, Lahiani added.

“He has a very important place in the coalition. When someone of that stature speaks so strongly, it is significant,” he said.

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