Likud MK introduces bill to annex Jordan Valley
'Negotiations must be on peace, not land,' says Miri Regev
An Israeli lawmaker on Thursday introduced a highly controversial bill proposing that Israel annex the Jordan Valley and its access routes in an effort to prevent a full Israeli withdrawal from the area as proposed by the US-designed security plan presented to Israeli and Palestinian leaders earlier this month.
While Likud MK Miri Regev's bill was expected to receive widespread support within her own Likud party, its passage through the Ministerial Committee for Legislation is likely to meet stark opposition from some of the left-leaning coalition members.
According to an Israel Channel 2 News report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not intervene to block the bill, but is expected not to support it, while Justice Minister Tzipi Livni would strongly oppose it from the outset.
In an interview to Israel Public Radio on Friday, Regev said Israel must put out the message that it will not surrender its eastern security belt. Regev called it a matter of upmost strategic importance and that she was convicned the would be approved by the ministers.
"Negotiations must be on peace, not on land," said Regev.
A senior Likud official told Hebrew Daily Israel Hayom that Regev was submitting the motion as a way of grabbing headlines and that she knows it will never pass in the Knesset.
Earlier this week, Israel's Army Radio reported that Israel is pleased with the US proposed security plan for the Jordan Valley as it meets nearly all of the demands raised by local security experts in talks with their American counterparts. According to the report, the US plan offers Israel complete control over the border with Jordan and enables it to maintain its close monitoring of the West Bank territory.
The plan, drawn up by US Secretary of State John Kerry and retired general John Allen in close consultation with Israeli defense officials, reportedly includes the building of a "massive" wall along the Jordan Valley -- in effect hemming the Palestinian territory between the new wall and the existing separation barrier -- and allows Israel to fly drones over the West bank in order to gather intelligence and thwart possible terror attacks. The plan, that would go into effect after Israel and the Palestinians sign a peace agreement, stipulates that patrols along the Jordanian border would initially be carried out solely by Israeli forces and eventually become joint patrols with the Palestinians.
Kerry presented the plan to Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during recent visit to the region. It is believed to be the cornerstone of larger, framework agreement Kerry plans to present the sides in the coming weeks.
While Israel, reportedly embraced the plan, calling it a good basis for negotiations, despite the fact that it would mean dismantling existing Israeli settlements, the Palestinians, as well as the Arab League rejected it out of hand, claiming it allowed Israel to maintain it's occupation of the West Bank.
After a meeting with Abbas last week, an Arab League official said the PA president would not agree to even one Israeli soldier on the Palestinian-Jordanian border.
The question of the Jordan Valley security arrangement has been the subject of much speculation. Earlier this week the London-based pan-Arab daily A-Sharq al-Awsat said Palestinian officials had said that American troops might be tasked with defending the border.
In response, Maj. Gen. (res.) Avi Mizrahi, a former commander of the IDF in West Bank, said that Israel’s security requires a security presence along the Jordan River.
“I would not rely on foreign forces,” he said. “Our history shows that every time the deployment of international forces was tried in one form or another, their output in the field was not what we wanted. We need to rely on ourselves.”