Israel’s Netanyahu promises to annex Jordan Valley, in occupied West Bank, if elected

Palestinians call Israeli leader ‘prime destroyer of the peace process’

Bel Trew
Jerusalem
Tuesday 10 September 2019 17:38 BST
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Benjamin Netanyahu outlined his controversial plans with a map
Benjamin Netanyahu outlined his controversial plans with a map (AFP/Getty Images)

Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank if he is elected next week, an explosive move that he hinted was supported by Donald Trump.

The embattled prime minister demanded a “mandate” from the people in the upcoming polls in order to push ahead with the plan. Although illegal under international law, Mr Netanyahu said he believed it would secure support from Israel’s closest ally, the US.

“Today, I announce my intention, after the establishment of a new government, to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea,” he said in a televised speech.

“I will apply for sovereignty of the settlements and other areas with maximum cooperation with the United States,” he added.

Mr Netanyahu said that he would push forward with annexing the West Bank areas of Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea, a strategic 2,400 square kilometre (930 square miles) area that runs along the border with Jordan, immediately after the elections on 17 September.

He added that he would wait to annex other areas of the West Bank after the US unveils a long-anticipated peace plan “out of respect to President Trump”.

Standing in front of a map of the zones he said he planned to place under full Israeli sovereignty, the prime minister claimed it would not include the Palestinian towns of Jericho or Al-Auja, which lie just north of the Dead Sea.

He said a few other Palestinian villages which lie on land partially controlled by the Palestinian Authority would also not be included but added that it “does allow the Palestinians to live freely east and west, including to Jordan”.

“Just as I settled our presence in the Golan Heights with American recognition so to I wish to do with the Jordan Valley,” he added, referencing Mr Trump’s controversial decision to recognise Israeli sovereignty of the Golan, which Israel seized from Syria during the 1967 war.

“We haven’t had such an opportunity since the [1967 war] and I doubt we will have such an opportunity in the next 60 years,” he concluded.

Annexing any part of the West Bank is illegal under international law, a violation of the United Nations charter, and is sure to ignite further conflict with the Palestinians who see the Jordan Valley as an integral part of their future state.

The valley stretches from the Dead Sea in the south to the Israeli city of Beit Shean in the north and accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the territory in the occupied West Bank.

Israel captured the West Bank and the Golan Heights in a 1967 war and has long said it intends to maintain military control there under any peace agreement with the Palestinians.

The Palestinians still hope for a future state which would encompass the entire West Bank and other areas.

Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, in a statement issued shortly before Mr Netanyahu spoke, amid reports of a possible annexation announcement, said that the premier is “a prime destroyer of the peace process”.

Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator for the Palestinians, and who lives within the Jordan Valley, also tweeted before the speech saying he was deeply concerned. He said both sides needed to “de-escalate, de-conflict ... Extinguish the fire” and “make peace”.

When the news broke he warned Mr Netanyahu’s action would constitute a war crime.

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“If Prime Minister Netanyahu is allowed to implement his plans of annexation, he would have succeeded in burying even any chance of peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” Mr Erekat said.

“Israel’s unprecedented culture of impunity, enabled by international inaction, is the only explanation for Mr Netanyahu’s audacity in using annexation as an election ploy,” he added, calling on the international community to block the Israeli leader’s plan.

Mr Netanyahu’s announcement was rejected by his political opponents in the upcoming elections who accused him of trying to secure last-minute votes.

The Blue and White party, the toughest rivals to Mr Netanyahu’s Likud, criticised him for dragging the residents of the Jordan Valley into a “propaganda” campaign.

“Blue and White have made clear that the Jordan Valley is a part of Israel forever. Netanyahu drafted a plan to cede the Jordan Valley in 2014. We are happy that Netanyahu has come around to adopt the Blue and White plan to recognise the Jordan Valley. The relationship between Israel and the United States is founded upon common interests and values and it is stronger than any prime minister.”

The statement added: “Netanyahu’s spin to the people of Israel will end on 17 September.”

Avigdor Leiberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party and Mr Netanyahu’s former defence minister, meanwhile tweeted “dramatic announcement” with two laughing emoticons.

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