There is nothing that should prevent Israel from annexing the Jordan Valley, a
territory that encompasses 25 percent of the West Bank. Israel has not annexed
the West Bank because it is undesirable to give citizenship to 2.5 million
Palestinians, but the demography of the Jordan Valley is different.
60,000 Palestinians live in the Jordan Valley, so there is no demographic
problem that would result from annexation.
Israel would be annexing a
territory that has provided the best natural defense against conventional
warfare along Israel’s eastern front. Since this valley includes the relatively
small border between the West Bank and Jordan (97 kilometers), Israel has been
able to easily prevent the movement of military personnel from Jordan into the
West Bank, and ultimately into Israel.
This is why proposals like those
of former prime minister Ehud Olmert need to be reconsidered, for according to
he offered to cede the Jordan Valley and move Israel’s border to “the
route of the security fence.” Olmert would have expanded Israel’s new eastern
border to approximately 700 kilometers, which would not only require an
exorbitant number of IDF personnel to defend, but would also leave Israel with a
severe lack of strategic depth.
Without the Jordan Valley, enemy troops
could enter the West Bank and position themselves less than 16 km. from the
Mediterranean Sea. From this point, they could invade Israel, reach the
coastline, cut the Jewish state in half, and lay the groundwork for its ultimate
One common counter argument is that strategic depth is
pointless in the modern era, since nations can now use long-range missiles to
strike any target in Israel. Proponents of this argument like to use the 1991
Gulf War as an example, for Iraq was able to shoot Scud missiles at Israel
despite the presence of IDF troops in the Jordan Valley.
may not be an antidote for Scud missiles, but the threat of long-range missiles
is not nearly as severe as an enemy ground invasion. Scud missiles may cause
large amounts of destruction, but missiles alone are not enough for one country
to take control of another. In other words, the Jordan Valley is Israel’s only
reliable defense against the doomsday threat of invading ground forces from the
Others downplay the threat of conventional warfare from the east,
for this would require the cooperation of Jordan, a nation that has signed a
peace treaty with Israel.
However, as the Arab Spring is bringing anti-
Israel forces like the Muslim Brotherhood to power, a regime change in Jordan
could lead the new government to cooperate with other nations to destroy the
Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, the only
territorial link between the rest of the West Bank and non-Israeli territory,
provides protection from Palestinian terrorism as well, for it could prevent
Palestinian terror cells from importing weapons over land.
terrorists could still import weapons via aerial transport, but this problem can
be fixed through ensuring permanent control over all of the West Bank’s
This has been mentioned by many Israeli politicians as a
fundamental security requirement, and was even reiterated by Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu in his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech.
It is true that
terrorists could still manufacture their weapons domestically, but evidence
shows that many of these organizations depend on outside help. For instance,
Hamas produces some of its own rockets, but many of them, especially the
advanced rockets like the Iranian Fajr-5, originate from outside the Gaza
Despite all of this, some posit that Israel can maintain a
military presence in the valley within the framework of Palestinian
Others even suggest that foreign military bodies, such as
NATO, can replace the entire IDF presence in the Jordan Valley, and achieve the
same security benefits.
However, the future Palestinian government would
likely rally the international community behind them against what they see as a
violation of their sovereignty. This would force Israel to choose between an
impending diplomatic crisis, or an irreversible security nightmare.
government of Israel should begin to view the Jordan Valley as a separate entity
from the rest of the West Bank, which should be subject to a separate
discussion. This will lay the groundwork for the time in which Israel hopefully
extends its law, jurisdiction and administration over the entire Jordan
The writer is the president of TorchPAC, the pro-Israel political
organization at New York University.
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