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Analysis: Can Israel annex the Jordan Valley under international law?
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
The question of what international law would say if Israel annexed the Jordan Valley can be considered quite hypothetical.
The question of what international law would say if Israel annexed
the Jordan Valley can be considered quite hypothetical.
The chances are
that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not permit this to happen on his
watch, certainly not as long as he is at least trying to work with the US on the
Iran and Palestinian issues.
Still, with Sunday’s Ministerial Committee
approval of annexing the Jordan Valley, however symbolic and nonbinding the vote
was as compared to a Knesset vote, the issue is much less theoretical than it
It is easier to view the issue from the perspective of past
annexations, such as the 1981 Golan Heights Law which extended Israeli law to
the area (though it did not formally use the word “annex”).
most legal commentators agree that international law does not recognize Israel’s
annexations of the Golan and consider it “occupied.”
The two main reasons
are the general principle that territory after a conflict can be newly acquired
only through a peace treaty, and UN Security Council Resolution 497, which said
that Israel’s actions to change the Golan’s status were “null and void with no
However, there are commentators who counter that until recent
history, no one disputed acquiring territory through winning a war, and that
even more recently, some recognize a right to acquire territory in war where the
other side was the aggressor.
While whether Israel or Egypt was the
initial aggressor in the 1967 War is hotly debated, there is even more nuance to
the debate regarding Syria and Jordan, since initially Israel attacked only
These commentators buttress Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights
with reference to the San Remo Declaration of 1920 as including the area within
the British Mandate and interpreting UN Resolution 242’s reference to “secure
and recognized boundaries” to give Israel the right to somewhat alter the Green
Line (which would not have included the Golan in Israel) to ensure its
Essentially, all of the above arguments, both for and against,
can be made regarding the Jordan Valley, with two wrinkles.
supporting annexation might try to argue that at worst, Jordan, like Syria,
attacked Israel first in 1967, but at best, the Jordan Valley was part of the
Israeli-Palestinian disputed areas in which, unlike the Golan which had been
under Syrian sovereignty, there really was no prior sovereign Palestinian
country in control of the territory, to which it would now have to be
Unlike the Golan, the Jordan Valley can be said to be part of
the Oslo process (in which it was categorized as Area C, remaining under Israeli
control at least until later negotiation stages) and its successor
This means that those against annexation may be able to argue that
Israel is prohibited by Oslo from acquiring or annexing it outside of
negotiations (whereas to date there are no even interim agreements with
Ultimately, the ministerial vote may merely have been a stunt to
strengthen Netanyahu’s insistence on keeping Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley
even if Israel grants sovereignty to the Palestinians, but should Israel follow
through on annexation, international legal opposition and nonrecognition would
be nearly unanimous.