(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The United States understands that the
Jordan Valley must remain in Israeli hands, for security reasons, in any
final status agreement with the Palestinians, and that includes its 22
settlements, David Lahiani, the area’s Regional Council head, told The Jerusalem
Post on Monday night. “But the Americans cannot say this, because it
would destroy the negotiations,” he said.
Lahiani is not just imagining
the American position. Three months ago a group of American military experts
visited the valley, he said.
It was his understanding that they saw how
from a military perspective it is impossible to withdraw from the valley that
borders with neighboring Jordan.
The settlements bolster a military
presence in the valley because otherwise the soldiers are alone in a hostile
territory, Lahiani said.
He is taking Sunday vote by the Ministerial
Legislative Committee to annex the Jordan Valley very seriously.
was only the first step of a long bureaucratic process that many politicians and
pundits believe will go nowhere, because its passage would need the active
support of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
But the prime minister did
not stop the ministers in his party from voting on the proposal sponsored by MK
Miri Regev [Likud], said Lahinai.
And among those that voted for the bill
was Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar who is a senior politician, Lahiani
Sa’ar’s emerging role in the battle for the Jordan Valley as well
as his plan to visit the region on Thursday, gives Lahiani hope that the
initiative might in the end succeed, even as most politicians and pundits have
dismissed it as symbolic.
“I think it is serious,” said
On Monday, Economic and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, who
heads the Bayit Yehudi party, posted on his Facebook page a 1995 quote from
former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin that said, “The security border of the State
of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that
Bennett also published on his page a photo of a visit he took to
the valley years ago and said, “In short, the Jordan Valley is a beautiful
place, and it is too important to attempt suicide by handing it over. And, most
importantly, it is ours. … So forget it.”
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On
told her party’s faction in the Knesset on Monday, “we blame the prime minister
for not stopping the Jordan Valley annexation bill from being
Every crazy Likud MK can propose another ridiculous bill, but the
prime minister is quiet.”
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz,
told Israel Radio on Monday that a vote, even one that had no teeth and was only
symbolic pushed Israel into an “unnecessary diplomatic pirouette from which it
will be hard to get out of.”
Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich said that
Israel’s current geopolitical situation allows it to make compromises on the
Jordan Valley, since there are no threats from the east.
The former Labor
chair said she believes the United States will offer its own proposal for a
framework agreement. “Netanyahu will say ‘yes,’ and then nothing will happen,”
Yacimovich told Israel Radio.
“Netanyahu is a right-winger,” she said.
“There is no difference between him and [Economy Minister] Naftali
The Palestinians have insisted that the Jordan Valley must be
part of their future state. In response to Sunday’s ministerial vote as well as
Israel’s expected announcement of more building in West Bank settlements,
Palestinians have ratcheted up their rhetoric against any possible peace deal
with Israel. The rising tensions come as US Secretary of State John Kerry is
expected to set out for Israel and the Palestinian territories on January
Labor parliamentarian said that such steps destroyed any positive
benefits in the negotiations and in world opinion that Israel might have derived
from the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners on Monday night.
faction chairman MK Eitan Cabel said, “It’s like there’s Dr. Bibi and Mr.
With one hand the government releases murderers with blood on
their hands, and with the other it builds over the Green Line. It’s taking a
difficult step and at the same time making a decision that prevents us from
getting any credit for it at all.”
Labor party leader MK Isaac Herzog,
“It’s not ethical to release vile murderers who killed men, women and children
without receiving anything in return. We accepted it in-order to advance a
diplomatic process, but we won’t let it turn into a real-estate deal in which we
build over the Green Line and end the process for which we let the murderers