Israel to authorize new Jordan Valley settlement after annexation pledge

EU, UN condemn Netanyahu’s actions.

A field in the Jordan Valley (photo credit: Courtesy)
A field in the Jordan Valley
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In a rare move on Sunday, the cabinet will legalize the Jordan Valley outpost of Mevo’ot Yericho as a new settlement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said just one day after pledging to annex the region.
The cabinet vote, which will be held just two days prior to the September 17th election, will mark the third time in the last two years that the government has approved a new West Bank settlement.
“It is a step toward the application of sovereignty,” Netanyahu said during a special Knesset session. “This is the right thing to do. This is what needs to be done. This is what the people want us to do,” he said as he urged the public to vote Likud.
On Tuesday, he crossed a diplomatic red line when promising that immediately after the election he will unilaterally apply sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, whose retention Israel considers vital to security. He also spoke of annexing all the West Bank settlements, but said he would only do that after US President Donald Trump released his peace plan and would do it in coordination with the US as much as possible.
The European Union and the United Nations immediately condemned Netanyahu’s words regarding annexation. “The EU will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The policy of settlement construction and expansion, including in East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law and its continuation, and actions taken in this context, undermine the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” it added.
“Unilateral actions are not helpful in the peace process,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said on Tuesday in New York. “Any Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied West Bank is without any international legal effect. I think such a prospect would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations, regional peace and the very essence of a two-State solution,” he said.
There were very few comments on Netanyahu’s statement regarding Mevo’ot Yericho, a small community of some 30 families that the Civil Administration had been in the process of authorizing as a new neighborhood of the settlement of Yitav.
Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Lahiani welcomed the move as a sign of Netanyahu’s commitment to the region, while the left-wing group Peace Now attacked it as last minute electioneering in an attempt to bribe right-wing voters.
During Netanyahu’s decade in office, the cabinet has approved six new settlements, five of which were pre-existing outposts. The outposts of Bruchin, Sansana and Rechilim were approved with one cabinet vote in 2012.
In 2017, the cabinet voted to create the completely new settlement of Amihai, followed by the approval of the Gilad Farm outpost as a settlement. Legal issues regarding land status have complicated the approval process for housing. It’s expected that housing approvals will be more quickly forthcoming with Mevo’ot Yericho.
In spite of the unusual occurrence of such an approval, focus remained on Netanyahu’s annexation pledge as the Yamina party leader Ayelet Shaked noted that Netanyahu could apply sovereignty to the Jordan Valley now with a cabinet vote.
Speaking to the Knesset about his Jordan Valley annexation plan, Netanyahu mocked criticism that he had not taken such a step during the 13 years he has spent serving as the country’s prime minister.
“Those who ask why we didn’t annex it before don’t understand how it works,” he said. “I have been working for years on softening hearts. It is a gradual process. That is why I told the US over the past few days about my decision.”
The Arab League Foreign Ministers issued a statement from Cairo warning that this was a “dangerous development” and “a new Israeli aggression.” In the statement, the league added that it “regards these statements as undermining the chances of any progress in the peace process and will torpedo all its foundations.”
Reuters contributed to this report.