Palestinians warned Sunday that a symbolic Israeli ministerial vote to annex the
Jordan Valley could destroy the peace process that US Secretary of State John
Kerry is pushing to advance by heading to Jerusalem and Ramallah later this
The vote “shows the extent of Israeli disrespect for international
law and the efforts of the [Middle East] Quartet,” Palestinian Liberation
Organization chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
In a show of support for
the valley that the Palestinians claim should be an essential part of their
state, the Ministerial Legislative Committee voted eight to three to annex it to
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Health
Minister Yael German and Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri,
have all said they will appeal the vote.
Such an appeal places the matter
directly in the hands of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a move that many
believe effectively kills the legislation.
The Ministerial Legislative
Committee must now revote the issue and that vote can only be held with
Netanyahu’s approval. The legislation would also have to pass the Knesset before
it becomes law.
The bill, which was sponsored by MK Miri Regev (Likud)
had the support of ministers from her party as well as those from Yisrael
Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi on the legislative committee.
Livni and Lapid
accused the ministers of attempting to foil the peace talks with the
Palestinians by supporting a bill that had no chance of passing.
an irresponsible bill and those who support it are irresponsible,” said
“It is a proposal that harms the State of Israel and isolates it,”
she said. “It is also designed to harm the government, because this is a matter
of government policy and not [the subject] for a private bill.”
said: “The ministerial committee’s approval of this bill now, when there are
talks with the Palestinians, is a clear statement by the government that the
towns in the Jordan Valley are a strategic and security asset of the State of
Israel that must stay in our hands.”
According to Regev, the region is
the “safety belt” on the eastern border.
Control of the valley has been a
sticking point in the negotiations. Netanyahu has insisted that for security
reasons Israel must maintain a military presence there.
Yisrael Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi politicians want the settlements to remain as
well, and for the area to become a permanent part of the State of
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar worked to convince the committee
to approve the bill, saying “there is no separation between settlement and
security, and the Jordan Valley is a consensus among Israeli
There’s nothing wrong with everyone knowing that the Jordan
Valley will remain Israeli in any final status agreement.”
Sa’ar (Likud) and Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel for pushing the
bill through the committee.
She and Sa’ar plan to visit there later this
Lapid, however, said he vehemently opposed it, both because he
supports a two state solution and because laws such as these are designed to
cripple the ability of the negotiators to arrive at a final status
Erekat told the Bethlehem- based Ma’an news agency that the
annexation of the Jordan Valley to Israel in this way is proof that Netanyahu’s
government is disregarding international law.
Erekat urged the
international community to hold Israel accountable for this decision.
said that the Palestinian response to the decision should come by joining UN
agencies and organizations.
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) attacked the decision
saying that “this government is being outrageously
“Instead of promoting the only way to save the State of
Israel from becoming a binational state, it is ruining any chance of a treaty
and deteriorating us to international isolation,” he said.
Shai the vote reveals the government’s real face, even though it is negotiating
with the Palestinians.
In the coalition, Ofer Shelah, the Yesh Atid
faction chairman, called the bill “irresponsible and dangerous, which causes
harm even if it does not become law in the end.”
“The fact that all Likud
ministers voted for this bill raises questions about the prime minister’s
party’s seriousness, since he decided to enter negotiations with the
Palestinians while his ministers support a bill that will tie Israel’s hands in
those talks, and makes us look like we’re doing everything to sabotage them,”
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said the committee’s approval of
the bill indicates that “Netanyahu suffers from a split personality, or he’s a
“On the one hand, he frees murdering terrorists and with
the other he allows the extremists in his party to pass laws that stop
negotiations. On the one hand he sends Tzipi Livni to talk to the Palestinians
and on the other he builds settlements. Either way, he is hurting the citizens
of Israel,” Horowitz said.
The Ministerial Legislative Committee vote
comes in the midst of a nine month negotiating period that ends in April. As
part of that process Kerry plans to meet later this week with Netanyahu and
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister President Mahmoud Abbas.