Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday voted 8-to–3 in favor of a bill to annex the Jordan Valley. It was only the bill’s first reading, and it is unlikely to become law, but the vote nevertheless caused what many see as a diplomatic headache for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The bill was introduced by MK Miri Regev (Likud), who, among others, argues that Israel must maintain at least a military presence in the Jordan Valley in any future peace deal in order to ensure the security of Israel’s borders. The move is said to have broad support in the Knesset, which would normally be given the opportunity to vote on any bill that passes in the aforementioned ministerial committee.
However, Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, despite both agreeing that an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley is important, are expected to quash the bill before it can be brought before the plenum.
US Secretary of State John Kerry recently submitted a peace proposal that would leave the Jordan Valley under Israeli military control as part of a final status agreement with the Palestinians. The American military establishment has long argued that Israel needs control of that border for the sake of long-term security.
Washington is also ostensibly looking out for its Jordanian allies, who fear Palestinian control of the border could eventually result in another effort to bring down the Hashemite monarchy, as happened in 1970–1971. Jordan was reportedly behind recent pressure on the Obama Administration to let Israel maintain control of its side of the Jordan Valley border.
Nevertheless, Israel’s unilateral move to maintain not only security control, but sovereignty over the Jordan Valley could give the Arabs the excuse they’ve been looking for to quit the current peace talks, according to the bill’s opponents.
There is also some speculation that Kerry and the Americans could have been behind the timing of the Israeli move. With the Arab League having already rejected Kerry’s proposal, could this be setting the stage to pressure the Palestinians by telling them, “Either accept the US-proposed deal, or Israel’s going to take everything”?