Ya'alon to 'Post': Gantz more serious on annexing Jordan Valley than Bibi

“Gantz, as chairman of Blue and White, has said very clearly that the Jordan Valley will remain [Israel’s] forever.”

Former Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon speaks at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 14, 2016 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Former Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon speaks at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 14, 2016
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is more serious about annexing the Jordan Valley than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White MK and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Monday.
Ya’alon made the comment when the Post cited past claims by both US and Israeli sources that Gantz had been ready to give the Jordan Valley to the Palestinians as part of the 2013-2014 US-led peace talks, provided the IDF could maintain a presence for 10-15 years after the formal withdrawal.
Responding to these claims, Ya’alon said Netanyahu had been the one who was ready to bend under US pressure during the negotiations.
Without formally confirming Gantz’s position in 2013-2014 when he was serving as IDF chief of staff under Netanyahu as prime minister, Ya’alon, himself a former IDF chief, said it is not important what an IDF chief said in representing government policy under Netanyahu. Rather, what is important is that “Gantz as chairman of Blue and White has said very clearly that the Jordan Valley will remain [Israel’s] forever.”
Ya’alon’s point was that, as high ranking as an IDF chief might be, he is subservient to the policy dictates of the country’s prime minister, especially regarding any issues with a diplomatic component, such as drawing borders.
In that sense, Ya’alon explained that any position Gantz might have given regarding the Jordan Valley while serving under Netanyahu would have needed to fall in line with the prime minister’s expectations.
The peace talks fell apart in late 2014, with US officials flagging Ya’alon as one of the Israeli officials who obstructed progress. The former defense minister said he was proud of his consistent position that Israel must hold on to the Jordan Valley.
Ya’alon said that because of his position, which clashed with the Obama administration’s peace suggestions, former president Barack “Obama did not give me a personal and graceful welcome” during his visit to Washington. However, Ya’alon said, “Here, you need to show determination if you have a real belief.”
Furthermore, he said that “Jordan does not believe in a Jordan-Palestine border… even if they won’t say it in public.”
Ya’alon said that Jerusalem and Amman both saw what happened when Israel withdrew completely from part of its border between the Palestinians in Gaza and Egypt, with Hamas eventually turning it into a major smuggling area.
Moreover, Ya’alon said his and Gantz’s position of holding on to the Jordan Valley was consistent with the father of the Oslo peace negotiations with the Palestinians, former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Going on the offensive, Ya’alon said Netanyahu has shown he is not serious about annexing the Jordan Valley, since he has done nothing to invest in the area. In contrast, he said, when he served as defense minister, he actively assisted Jordan Valley communities with water and electricity issues.
Gantz and Ya’alon are due to tour Jordan Valley communities on Tuesday along with Regional Council head Aryeh Cohen. Blue and White has moved to try to seize some Likud votes in the March 2 election by presenting its right-wing bona fides more clearly.
Ya’alon is on record as being in favor, theoretically, of land for peace in some other parts of the West Bank, but as being highly skeptical whether this can or should be done in the foreseeable future due to security threats.
Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a Yamina candidate, wrote to Netanyahu on Monday, asking him to hold a vote on annexing the Jordan Valley when the Knesset convenes next Tuesday to vote on forming a House Committee that will reject immunity for Netanyahu.
Smotrich’s proposal was seen as a threat against Netanyahu, insinuating that his vote in favor of immunity could be lost if Netanyahu does not initiate the vote on the Jordan Valley.
“Yisrael Beytenu and Blue and White think a caretaker government can make key decisions on matters of principle, and I am in favor,” Smotrich wrote to Netanyahu. “Annexing the Jordan Valley is one of the most important Zionist steps that are on the agenda. If Blue and White is moving rightward, let us give them a chance to prove it.”