Netanyahu insists Jordan Valley annexation discussed with Pompeo

The prime minister also said that if direct elections for PM are initiated, he will win.

Can he win again? Prime Minister and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Can he win again? Prime Minister and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The issue of annexing the Jordan Valley was indeed raised with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during their meeting last week in Lisbon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, though a formal plan was not presented.
Netanyahu’s comments at a conference sponsored by the Makor Rishon newspaper followed denials issued by senior State Department official David Schenker that a plan had been presented to Pompeo.
As a result of Schenker’s comments, reports in both the traditional and social media emerged hinting that Netanyahu was being less than honest – and engaging in campaign “spin” – when he told reporters in Lisbon that “we discussed the issue of annexation, but we’re not talking about timetables yet.”
Just as he wanted formal US recognition for Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, “I want US recognition for our sovereignty over the Jordan Valley,” Netanyahu said at the conference.
“It was said that the issue was not raised [at the Pompeo meeting]. The issue was raised,” Netanyahu said. “No, they didn’t say it was not raised, they said that a formal plan was not discussed. Right, that was not yet raised. But the issue was raised.”
Netanyahu said he intends on raising this with the Trump administration. “I think the time has come to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, and also arrange the status of all the settlements in Judea and Samaria, those inside the settlement blocs, and those that are not in the blocs. They will be part of the State of Israel.”
In a speech aimed at shoring up support among the settlement Right at a time when a few settlement leaders have thrown their support to Netanyahu’s Likud rival Gideon Sa’ar, Netanyahu said he was uniquely positioned to get US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, as well as to negotiate a security pact between Israel and the US that would ensure Israel’s freedom of action.
“A lot of alliances and relationships that didn’t even exist and couldn’t even be imagined” have been formed under his leadership, he told the conference, adding that it was now time to sign a defense pact with the US.
“I can achieve a historic defense alliance [with the United States], and that’s what I’m going to do, please God, in the coming months,” he said.
He also said he has proven an ability to deflect pressure to withdraw from Judea and Samaria by being able to have an impact on the “most important power in the United States,” which he said was public opinion.
“The US public knows me, and therefore I turned to it – time after time – about our rights, the justice of our cause, our homeland, our struggle. And when you are able to move significant public opinion in the United States, you can move the United States entirely. And if you can’t move public opinion, you can’t really lead the State of Israel. And that is the difference.”
On other issues, Netanyahu said that Israel, if needed, would engage in a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip. He said there will be no permanent ceasefire in the region unless the rockets stop.
His comments came the morning after the Israel Air Force struck Hamas targets in response to rocket fire toward Israel.
Additionally, the prime minister said that if it comes down to a third election, he will win “by far,” and that Blue and White is “not budging by even a millimeter” in the coalition negotiations.
“Today I say to Gantz: come and build a unity government with me,” Netanyahu said. “And if not, then let the country decide who they want by holding direct elections for prime minister. Let the nation decide who will be prime minister. At least those elections will be fast and not drawn out and costly.”
Following the conference, Netanyahu convened the weekly cabinet meeting and said the killing of 20 Iraqi protesters in Baghdad on Saturday seems to have been carried out by Iraqi Shi’ite militias.
“There is a growing number of signs that point to the murderous attack in Baghdad as having been carried out by the Iraqi Shi’ite militias, directly under the guidance of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards,” he said.
“At this time, facing this murder, we must increase pressure on Iran,” Netanyahu said. “This is what I call on European countries to do. I wish to clarify, with or without the European countries, Israel will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons under any circumstances.”
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz attacked Netanyahu on the Jordan Valley issue in his speech at the Makor Rishon Conference in Jerusalem, and received applause from the right-wing crowd at the event.
“Netanyahu has put so much into talking about the Jordan Valley that he’s forgotten that action is also required,” Gantz said mockingly. “Before all the talk about annexation, we need to be thinking about development. We are not about talk, we’re about action. We’ll deal with infrastructure, roads, agriculture. We’ve already determined that the Jordan Valley is the protective barrier for Israel’s eastern border, and it will stay that way. That is a strategic security question – not just a campaign promise.”  
Gil Hoffman and Tamar Beeri contributed to this report.