Netanyahu confidante: Jordan wants Israel to keep presence along West Bank boundary

Likud MK Ofir Akunis told a town hall gathering in Tel Aviv that the Palestinians are "obstacles to peace."

A view of the Jewish settlement of Maale Ephraim. (photo credit: Reuters)
A view of the Jewish settlement of Maale Ephraim.
(photo credit: Reuters)

A Likud parliamentarian considered a close ally and confidante of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that Israel’s insistence on maintaining a military presence in the Jordan Valley as part of any final status agreement with the Palestinians is supported by Jordan.

MK Ofir Akunis told a town hall gathering in Tel Aviv on Saturday that Israeli officials have received feedback from their Jordanian counterparts who are alarmed at the prospect of an Israeli withdrawal from the boundary that separates the West Bank from the Hashemite kingdom.

“The Jordanians are opposed to an Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley out of fear that if a Palestinian state arises and is taken over by extremist elements like Hamas and Al-Qaida, this would endanger the king’s rule, not just Tel Aviv,” Akunis said.

Netanyahu met last week with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman for what was described as a “surprise” visit.

The meeting focused on the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

In a statement released upon Netanyahu's return to Israel, he stressed the important role played by Jordan, under King Abdullah's leadership, in the efforts to bring about an agreement. He also emphasized that Israel places a premium on security arrangements, including Jordan's interests, in any future agreement that will take into consideration the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, signed 20 years ago.

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said earlier this month that the Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley would be contrary to the peace agreement signed between the two countries in 1994.

Speaking to a gathering of parliament members, he said that Jordan “categorically rejects any Israeli intention in this regard and will not stand idly by, but will act diplomatically,” according to a report on Thursday in the London-based daily Al-Hayat.

Akunis went on to attack the Palestinians, whom he deemed “an obstacle to peace.”

“Their insistence not to recognize the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people proves that the conflict isn’t just territorial, but it is one that is being waged for our existence,” he said. “I believe that we should have negotiations with the Palestinians, but we need to understand that a Palestinian state could endanger most Israeli cities.”

“My vision, and that of Likud, says that we have no interest in controlling the Palestinians,” Akunis said. “I am in favor of maximum Palestinian self-rule and deep economic cooperation between our peoples, but I am not ready to have a Palestinian state be born on the ruins of my country.”