Netanyahu seeks green light from White House to annex Jordan Valley
"It's kind of like eating steak in coordination with vegan organizations. You don't have to wait for international approval, you have to set facts on the ground," says MK Bezalel Smotrich.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF, TOVAH LAZAROFF
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his office appealed to the White House on Wednesday for a green light to apply Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley and the northern region of the Dead Sea before the March 2 elections, Kan 11 News reported on Wednesday morning.Netanyahu would otherwise, according to senior Likud officials, have already announced his intention to hold a cabinet vote Sunday and a Knesset vote on the matter Tuesday, the report stated.A Likud source has also confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that Netanyahu is weighing the matter.On Wednesday morning Netanyahu tweeted, “I will apply sovereignty on the Jordan Valley.”The Shas Party announced on Wednesday morning that it would support the measure should it come before the Knesset, which is expected to convene on Tuesday to discuss the formation of a committee to deal with the issue of parliamentary immunity for Netanyahu.“This is a historic opportunity,” Religious Affairs Minister and Shas Party head Aryeh Deri said. “Shas will support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's initiative to apply sovereignty and calls on all parties to do so as well, in order to secure a broad national consensus that will send a strong message to the world that Israel is united on this important issue.Yisrael Beytenu partly head Avigdor Liberman also said his party supported the move, noting that it had attempt with no success to put forward a Knesset bill on sovereignty in Judea and Samaria already in December, noting that Netanyahu could use his bill. He urged Netanyahu to include in his initiative places in Area C fo the West Bank such as Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev and Ariel.Liberman accused Netanyahu of caring about the sovereignty issues only because it played well for him electorally and could shore up legislative support to grant him immunity. He noted that he could have done it anytime in the last ten years when he was in power.Netanyahu is under pressure from the Yamina Party, headed by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett to take action on Jordan Valley sovereignty, even though Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has frowned on the move.Bennett tweeted, "I call on @netanyahu to bring a government vote this coming Sunday on the matter of Jordan Valley sovereignty, and then bring the order to the Knesset's approval on Tuesday. Only tangible actions will decide the matter.”US Vice President Mike Pence and the team of officials working on the Trump administration peace deal to resolve the Palestinian conflict are due in Israel this week. They include Jared Kushner, Avi Berkowitz and Brain Hook. Speculation is high that US President Donald Trump will publish his long awaited peace plan, known as the Deal of the Century, prior to the March 2nd Israeli election.On Monday Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina) wrote to Netanyahu to ask if he would take such a step. He suggested that the vote could be held in conjunction with the Tuesday anticipated vote on the immunity committee.Rumors that swirled last week that he might act on the matter, became more acute on Tuesday when Netanyahu dropped hints about an annexation move prior to the election.He was spurred to do both by Smotrich and in the aftermath of a trip Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz made to the northern region of the Dead Sea. Gantz. He told reporters there he supported the inclusion of that area and the Jordan Valley within Israel’s sovereign borders, but would move of the matter only after elections.Gantz explained that he didn’t want to do it unilaterally, but multilaterally with an internationally agreed process. He did not address the international’s community stiff objection to Israeli sovereignty in that area.On Army Radio Smotrich criticized Gantz and Netanyahu's need for international approval saying that, "it's kind of like eating steak in coordination with vegan organizations. You don't have to wait for international approval, you have to set facts on the ground."If the Knesset convenes anyway, the proposal can be approved by a large majority as early as Tuesday. We have an extraordinary window of opportunity," he continued.On Tuesday Netanyahu chided Gantz on twitter to prove that he really supported Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.“I expect your full support and that of Blue and White for this historic process. I stand you to the test on this very soon,” Netanyahu said.He dropped a similar hint at a Likud campaign rally in Jerusalem on Tuesday night when he said, “We’ll apply Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley and the Northern Dead Sea without delay and without any veto by [Joint List MK] Ahmad Tibi,” Netanyahu said.It’s presumed that should the matter come to a vote, Netanyahu would have the support of Beit Yehudi, the New Right, his Likud Party, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas and UTJ. That would give him at least 63 votes.