Uzi Dayan: 'Sovereignty in the Jordan Valley is a security necessity'

The Jordan Valley – strategic depth essential for Israel's existence

Uzi Dayan (photo credit: REUTERS)
Uzi Dayan
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Inside and outside the Knesset, General (ret.) Uzi Dayan is very active in bolstering Israel’s foothold in the Jordan Valley. In his drawer, he has a systematic program for significant progress in the region, and he leads more than a few tours for decision makers from Israel and abroad along Israel’s eastern border. He considers the present era as a rare opportunity to generate a bona fide political revolution and to lead to the application of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea.
As one who, in his past, filled a variety of military posts, among them, commander of the commando unit of the Chief of the General Staff, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, head of the National Security Council, the talk with him about the significance of the Jordan Valley, focuses on the security aspect. However, he insists on beginning this talk with a reminder: “This is not merely a security issue, but a national issue. Although the reference is to Israel’s security border, it is important to remember that the children of Israel entered via the Jordan River to conquer the land under the leadership of Joshua bin-Nun. The name of the point where the crossing took place is Mabberot HaYarden, regarding which I am conducting a campaign to recognize it as a National Heritage Site."
To date, the site is recognized as a site sacred to Christianity, where according to Christian tradition, Jesus was baptized. However, under the leadership of Dayan, special tours are being conducted as well as a special ceremony in the framework of what he characterizes as the “First Aliyah Festival” on the tenth of Nisan. The first aliyah was not in 1822,  but rather 3,293 years ago, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan at the Jordan River crossings, and entered the Land of Israel.”
Alongside the site's Jewish-historic value, its security aspect cannot be overlooked, an aspect that receives a broad consensus among security-minded people from the Center-Left. Dayan explains:
“The Jordan Valley is the only line that fills the three essential criteria for national security that defensible borders must satisfy: The first criterion is that it provides strategic depth. The average distance between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is 64 kilometers, which is the minimal distance required in these days of missile threats and attacks. ‘The Green Line,’ in contrast, affords only a very short distance to the sea, with a narrow strip in the middle containing 70% of the Israeli population and 80% of Israel’s industrial production. ‘The Green Line’ is not only impossible to defend, as it has already been proven in the past, but it also encourages the enemy to attack and bisect the country.”
“Moreover, any country that seeks to exist must sustain a security perimeter against the possibility of an external conventional attack. We have seen in the past that Iraqis participated in every war against Israel by dispatching forces. “The Jordan Valley is the only place where it is possible to deploy two divisions,” Dayan says. When he is asked about the contention that in an era of missiles, land expanses have no security value, he responds decisively: “That is real nonsense.  Without strategic depth that enables the deployment of early-warning systems, and interception of rockets and missiles and provides a security perimeter until the mobilization of reserve forces, it is not possible to defend the state, not to mention the need for the necessary air and electromagnetic expanse. Therefore, this statement is nonsense.”
Provide us with an expanse equal to the distance that it is prohibited to sail next to vessels of the American Navy.
“In 1967, when the Green Line was the border, it meant that in the Tulkarem region, the distance was 11 miles to the sea. That is a distance that is so short that there is great temptation to attack Israel. In UN Resolution 242, which was adopted after the Six Day War, it does not say that it is incumbent upon Israel to return to the prewar borders, but rather to return to “secure and recognized boundaries.” It was clear then that the outbreak of the Six Day War resulted from the lack of strategic depth. When strategic depth is non-existent, the temptation is great.”
In his talk, Dayan cites an anecdote that he mentioned to his American counterparts during a visit to Capitol Hill: “The Americans have a principle that it is prohibited to draw nearer than 40 miles to a US Navy vessel without receiving approval from the captain. I noted on Capitol Hill that we were willing to suffice with those 40 miles."
A third critical element for Israeli security that renders Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley essential is control over the external boundaries to combat terrorism. “Anyone who does not effectively combat terrorism leaves the initiative in the hands of the terror groups. In order to combat terrorism effectively, it is necessary to control the outer shell. The Jordan Valley does not merely protect Jerusalem, it protects Israel. Without it, Hamas will gain control of Judea and Samaria and we will be subject to rocket and other terrorism in the Israeli heartland.”
Perhaps there is room to consider international proposals calling for deployment of multinational forces in the Jordan Valley alongside an Israeli early warning station under the command of an Israeli officer? Dayan characterizes this concept as a dismantling and reassembling approach. “They are offering us two balloons and a lookout point in Baal Hazor, or two weekly photography flights, a multinational presence and perhaps an Israeli officer. They are attempting to provide a solution for a prewar deployment by writing in an agreement that in a time of crisis it will be permitted to deploy two Israeli divisions. All this constitutes an ostensible response for each isolated position; however, it is like dismantling a watch and reassembling it without certain essential components. It will not work because there is no substitute for soldiers on the ground defending their homeland. If you do not control and are not present at the border crossings, they will smuggle whatever they want through them. When you are not on the ground, it is possible to circumvent everything.
Exploiting the Israeli consensus and the American agreement
As one who moves back and forth between the Labor Settlement Movement and the Revisionist Movement and its heirs in the Likud  Movement, Dayan is convinced that the consensus surrounding the Jordan Valley is broader than ever and the preparedness for the application of sovereignty over the region is closer than before. “After a years-long struggle, there is understanding of the need for this step. When we began this struggle, only 14% of Israelis said that Jordan should be the eastern border. Today, that is the position of 70%, and today there is American understanding of the issue. We must exploit this opportunity.
Dayan presents the fundamentals of his doctrine for the immediate bolstering of the Israeli hold in the Jordan Valley, primarily in the areas of tourism, industry and transportation.
“More than 750,000 tourists visited the Mabberot HaYarden site this year, yet in the entire Jordan Valley region there is not even one hotel! I am working to have the site declared a Heritage Site and at the same time to establish a hotel and a Visitors’ Center which do not exist in the Jordan Valley, one of the most interesting places in the world. Today, tourists who come to the region stay overnight at the Dead Sea or in Jericho or return to Jerusalem. When they travel north, they return to Route 6. There are no places where more than 70 people can stop and eat. Two years ago, I brought 130 congregational rabbis from around the world on a tour. We toured in the Jordan Valley, and in order to feed them, I had no alternative but to take them to the yeshiva in Shadmot Mehola. It is necessary to build a hotel on the Jericho bypass road.”
“It is also essential to change the present situation in which they earn a living exclusively from agriculture. It cannot be that in the border areas there are only farmers. First it is necessary to develop tourism and then continue with industry. It is necessary to include in programs like Israel 100 construction of infrastructures like a train line from the Golan to the Jordan Valley to the Arava. In 2048, the population of Israel will be approximately twenty million, among them fifteen million Jews. It is necessary, therefore, that parallel to the development of the Negev and the Galilee, we will plan to develop Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley to absorb at least three million Israelis. We will act and we will succeed," Dayan concludes.
Published in Sovereignty Supplement and sponsored by Women in Green