Clarifying the Security Arrangements Debate: Israeli Forces in the Jordan Valley

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Michael Eisenstadt and Robert Satloff - For the Israelis, the principle is that the Jordan River must, for a lengthy period, remain their eastern security border. This means maintaining an Israeli military presence that not only guards against terrorist infiltration and weapons smuggling, but that could also provide the basis for a first line of defense against threats that may someday emerge east of the river. While Israel welcomes cooperative security arrangements with Jordan and the Palestinians in this effort, it looks around at the ineffectual third-party forces on its other borders - especially UNIFIL in Lebanon, UNDOF in the Golan Heights, and UNTSO which still operates in Jerusalem six decades after its creation - and rejects the idea that international forces, even from NATO, could replace its own troops. Israel also wants the term of its military presence along the river defined by certain criteria, not limited by a "date certain" that would be determined without regard to existing strategic realities. In fact, the current Israeli military presence in the valley consists of a handful of infantry companies (totaling 200-500 troops) plus a smaller number of security personnel at the border crossings, many not in uniform. Israel is able to maintain such a limited force because of close coordination with highly professional Jordanian security forces, cooperative working relations with Palestinian security forces, and the supplementary use of advanced technology. Palestinians may take a different view if their leaders clarified that the question of Israel's future military presence in the valley concerns a few hundred personnel, not the thousands that are often implied. The size and status of residual Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley is only one of several thorny security issues that remain unresolved, including Israel's demand for early warning stations on strategic hilltops in the West Bank; arrangements for the aerial approaches to Ben-Gurion International Airport; access and control over the main east-west roads and passes in the West Bank; management and control of airspace and the electromagnetic spectrum in the Palestinian territories; and details of the Palestinian state's demilitarization. Michael Eisenstadt is director of The Washington Institute's Military and Security Studies Program. Robert Satloff is executive director of the Institute.

2014-02-26 00:00:00

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