Israel will only sign an agreement with the Palestinians if it includes an
Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu said Monday.
At the same time, Netanyahu has never ruled out
that such a presence could be part of a larger international force.
reported in The Jerusalem Post Sunday, Yitzhak Molcho, Israel’s negotiator in
the low level talks in Amman, told his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erekat that
Israel would not take any steps that endangered its security. What that meant,
he said, was that if the Palestinians continued to say that there could not be
any IDF presence in the Jordan Valley in a peace deal, that would impact on
Israel’s ability to show flexibility on the territorial issue.
during a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, responded to a report Monday in
Ma’ariv saying Israel had given up on its claim to sovereignty over the Jordan
Valley, and would be satisfied with tight security arrangements along the Jordan
“I heard the reports,” Netanyahu said. “I would like to say what I
will do. This depends on me. I will sign a permanent agreement only if it
includes Israel’s remaining in the Jordan Valley. Nobody can ensure this
but us. I think that we are acting responsibly and prudently and are seeing to
the security of the State of Israel. This requires Israel to remain in the
Government officials said afterward Netanyahu was
referring to a security presence, not a civilian one. Netanyahu has said
consistently since coming into power that any agreement would necessitate an
Israeli military presence along the Jordan River, and he has emphasized that
point repeatedly since the revolutions in the Arab world began last year, saying
the regional uncertainty makes such a security presence even more
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said
repeatedly he would not let any Israeli soldier remain in a future Palestinian
state, although he has indicated a willingness to allow some kind of
international force along the Jordan River.
One Western source said that
one possible way to bridge the gap between these two positions would be for
Israeli soldiers to be part of such an international force.
In a related
development, diplomatic officials said an Arab League meeting scheduled for
February 4, during which Abbas was to decide whether to continue with the Amman
talks, has been pushed back until the middle of the month, apparently to give
the sides time to work out a package for continuing the talks.
Palestinians have threatened to break off the talks if Israel does not freeze
all settlement construction, and agree to the June 4, 1967, lines as the basis
According to an Army Radio report, the Palestinian
representative to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean meeting in
Amman Monday said the Palestinians intended to continue with the low-level talks
The EU responded to Israel’s appeals for a condemnation of
comments made by Mohammed Hussein, the PA’s mufti in Jerusalem earlier this
month, quoting an Islamic text calling for the murder of Jews, issuing a
statement decrying his “inflammatory speech.”
“The EU missions in
Jerusalem and Ramallah recall that all parties are obliged under the Road Map to
immediately cease incitement. Jerusalem is a city sacred to three religions and
all religious leaders should be working for dignity and justice for people of
all faiths,” the statement said.
One Israeli official, while he welcomed
the condemnation, said it would have been stronger had the EU urged the PA to
condemn the mufti’s words as well.
A few hours after issuing this
statement, the EU issued another statement, this time “expressing concern” over
Israel’s arrest of Hamas affiliated Palestinian Legislative Council
“These actions are not conducive to the confidence building
efforts, in which the EU is fully engaged, aiming at the resumption of direct
peace negotiations,” the statement read.