(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Thanks to the backing of Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and
Bayit Yehudi ministers, a bill proposing to annex the Jordan Valley was passed
Sunday in the Ministerial Legislative Committee. Ministers from Hatnua and Yesh
Atid responded with anger to the legislation.
They vowed to appeal the
vote, which would place the matter directly in the hands of Prime Minister
Beginning with the 1967 Allon Plan, Israeli control
over the Jordan Valley has been a centerpiece of the security establishment’s
conception of the Jewish state’s essential defense needs. In October 1995,
almost two years after signing the Oslo Accords, then-prime minister Yitzhak
Rabin declared that “the security border of the State of Israel will be located
in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.”
“broadest meaning of that term” probably was a decidedly inclusive definition of
what is meant by the Jordan Valley, a definition that might even include the
mountain ridges that overlook the valley to the west.
Binyamin Netanyahu has adopted Allon’s and Rabin’s decades-old defense
perspective. In November, he said that security arrangements with the
Palestinians “will no doubt include many things, but first among them will be
that the State of Israel’s security border remains along the Jordan
This perspective on the Jordan Valley’s centrality to Israel’s
security is shared by a majority of Israelis as well.
of Israelis said they opposed an Israeli pullout from the valley in a survey
commissioned by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The poll, conducted by
pollster Midgam and published in October, also found that 74% were opposed to
having international forces in the Jordan Valley instead of IDF
Retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the former commander of US
troops in Afghanistan, was tasked by US Secretary of State John Kerry with
formulating a solution in the Jordan Valley that could conceivably answer
Israel’s security needs without compromising Palestinian sovereignty too
Allen has reportedly accepted the idea that Israeli, not American
forces, must remain on the ground along the Jordan Valley, at least in the
short-term after the signing of a peace agreement. The challenge remains to
convince the Palestinians.
Under the circumstances, it hardly seems an
opportune time for our ministers to advance legislation that gives the
impression that Israel, not the Palestinians, is the intransigent party in the
The matter of deciding the future of the Jordan Valley
should not be left to a backbench lawmaker, with all due respect to MK Miri
Regev who sponsored the legislation.
Rather, the cabinet led by the prime
minister should decide whether maintaining Jewish settlements in the Jordan
Valley is essential for Israel’s security needs or whether these needs can be
met by IDF forces alone.
If, under a two-state solution, Israel should
decide to retain Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley, there would be
ramifications. This area makes up at least 6% of the West Bank, if not more.
Making it an integral part of a Jewish state would mean that the US and the
Palestinians would expect an equivalent land swap inside the Green
The ministers who voted in favor of annexing the Jordan Valley were
motivated by valid security concerns, particularly the dangers presented by the
smuggling of advanced weapons into the West Bank from Jordan. That is precisely
what happened when Israel pulled out of Gaza and relinquished control over the
Philadelphi Route. Arms from Iran, Libya and elsewhere made their way into
Hamas-controlled Gaza and created a major security threat.
Israel were to relinquish a civilian presence on the Jordan Valley, it would be
difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a solely military presence there in
the long term. Terrorist organizations would launch attacks targeting IDF
forces. Pressure would build inside Israel in the form of grassroots
organizations similar to “Four Mothers,” which was so instrumental in pressuring
Israel to pull out of the security zone in Lebanon, to remove Israeli troops
from the Jordan Valley. And international pressure would build as
Ultimately, however, the future of the Jordan Valley must be
determined by the cabinet and by the prime minister. Staging what will most
likely be nothing more than a symbolic hawkish ministerial vote to annex the
Jordan Valley does more harm than good.