Israel and the Jordan Valley

(Tablet) Armin Rosen - Declaring Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley - with its obvious strategic significance and relatively small population of Palestinians - is a demand shared across the Israeli political mainstream. Israel can even plausibly claim that extending sovereignty to the area between the West Bank ridgeline and the Jordan River would be a coordinated move, rather than a unilateral one: The U.S. peace plan framework foresees permanent Israeli control over the area and doesn't condition a change in status on any peace agreement with the Palestinians. A significant share of Israeli leaders, and the people who elect them, believe they now live in a region where the consequences of such a move are manageable. By their logic, the Arab states need Israel too much to scuttle relations over what amounts to less than a quarter of the West Bank, especially when such action would be consistent with an American peace plan that most regional governments have endorsed. American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and relocation of its embassy there, as well as endorsement of Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, were moves that were long believed to be too provocative to ever carry out. Instead, when they happened, they were all relative nonevents. Dore Gold, Israel's former ambassador to the UN, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and confidante to both Benjamin Netanyahu and the late Ariel Sharon, was one of a small number of Israelis outside of government who routinely consulted with Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman about the U.S. peace plan. "I was in it to try to help formulate a plan that would provide a consensus basis for Israel's future borders," Gold recalled. The Jordan Valley was hardly a new issue for Gold. In 1997, he accompanied Netanyahu to the Map Room of the White House, where they presented President Clinton's peace process team with an "interest map" of the West Bank that highlighted areas Israel believed to be of critical importance, the Jordan Valley included. Until the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, it was believed Saddam Hussein's army could cross the Kingdom of Jordan and reach Israeli-controlled territory in 36 hours. Even with that scenario foreclosed, Gold thought Israeli planners needed to work across a longer time scale than the life of a single leader or even a single regime. "Military planning, especially strategic planning, should never be scenario-specific," Gold said. "I personally had the view, which got backing from the prime minister's office, that in places like the Jordan Valley where Israel had the highest security interests, it would have to seek actual sovereignty over the territory." This argument repudiated decades of peace process doctrine, which defaulted to treating the valley as territory in a future Palestinian state.

2020-05-15 00:00:00

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