Yoaz Hendel: Gantz-led gov't will bring sovereignty over Jordan Valley

"There is no sovereignty? It is mostly the fault of the right-wing governments."

Yoaz Hendel (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yoaz Hendel
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The conversation with Yoaz Hendel, perhaps the most prominent right-wing symbol of the Blue and White Party, is belligerent and cutting. He has been disappointed by the various right-wing governments as he speaks about the Jordan Valley, and the accusing finger he points especially, perhaps as might be expected, toward the Netanyahu government.
A moment before he presents his sharp criticism for the supporters of sovereignty in the government, the Knesset and outside of these institutions, he clarifies his basic position, which is “For me, the Jordan Valley is part of the State of Israel and is also the most important part from a strategic point of view. Without the Jordan Valley, all of the arguments over Amona and Nativ Ha’avot is symbolic and nice, but much less important. The Valley is a strategic asset. Yigal Alon understood this, but since then things have deteriorated, especially in right-wing governments.”
MK Hendel particularly accuses the organizations calling for sovereignty, such as Nahalah, Women in Green and others, who cooperate with what he defines as hot air ballooning. "In each election, they talk about annexation as if it is going to happen, and afterward they explain why it didn’t happen. It’s always the Left’s fault, the Arabs’ fault, the political partner’s fault or the opposition’s fault. It is really just foolishness. There has never been a serious discussion here about strategic objectives, it’s just spin and everyone collaborates in this spin.”
“The right-wing parties collaborate because they are in power, but strategically, they have not advanced one centimeter in the past 52 years, they have only regressed, and it is mainly the right-wing governments’ fault because the more they talk the less they do,” says Hendel, who believes that while movements such as the Sovereignty Movement hold conferences on the idea of sovereignty, in reality, in every election they support those who do not really intend to apply Israeli law. “They don’t want it. It’s not a matter of capability,” he asserts. “If they cannot do it, they should make no promises, but for the past 6 elections they have promised to annex parts of Judea and Samaria.”
Hendel finds proof of the Likud's apathy toward the matter of sovereignty in the three years of Donald Trump’s term in the White House and his sympathetic administration. “This is the most sympathetic president to Israel regarding Judea and Samaria, and in the last election there was a real American proposal to apply sovereignty under the condition that there would be a unity party of the Right and the Left. Fate ordained it and there is a majority in Knesset that the Jordan Valley is a strategic necessity. This is what Likud and Yamina claim, despite the fact that they have not done anything with this. This is in Blue and White’s platform and in part of the Labor Party, but there was no decision to have a unity party. The right-wing parties refused to do it because it was important for them to maintain Netanyahu in power. I do not think that any one of them really wants to apply the law. It looks to me like an attempt to gain the mandates of uninformed people before the elections.”
Hendel’s remarks are indeed resolute, although they contradict the resolute statement of another member of his party, MK Ofer Shelah, who states “The annexation of the Jordan Valley has not been and will not be part of Blue and White’s platform.” We request Hendel to resolve this contradiction and to this end he refers us to the party’s head, Benny Gantz.
“When Benny Gantz says that he will develop the Jordan Valley and turn Ma’ale Ephraim into an urban center and that we will double the number of farms, this is not idle talk.” “What is beautiful about this party is that a third of its voters are right-wing, a third is left-wing and a third is in the center and this can also be seen its members of Knesset as well. When you talk about natural partners, I am more of a natural partner with someone who has served in the army and has fought with me shoulder to shoulder than with Litzman. We may end up in a coalition with Litzman, but the basics are Zionist, as we can hear from Gantz, Ashkenazi and Bogey Ayalon. Forget me and Ofer Shelah. We are level 2.” Hendel views the chance for a government led by Blue and White and supported by the Arabs as spin with no basis in reality. “I do not foresee a coalition with Tibi," he says.
When asked if he foresees his party applying the law over the Jordan Valley, or whether he favors a practical channel for building, without a legislated political definition, Hendel responds: "They accuse us of being Mapainikim, so I am willing to accept the good part of ‘another acre and another goat’. To me, to abandon the Jordan Valley and leave it uninhabited as it is now, and not connect it to the infrastructures and to offer it in peace talks as happened during the Netanyahu government is the opposite trend. Long before the spin about sovereignty I expect to invest resources there and  I certainly hope that we will arrive at a constellation that will allow for the application of sovereignty under suitable conditions, but I do not intend to play Netanyahu’s spin game."
Published in Sovereignty Supplement and sponsored by Women in Green