If he wins reelection next week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to annex the Jordan Valley. Though his opponents see this pledge as political spin, whispers of an agreement on the matter between Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump suggests that this time around, Israel (through Netanyahu) means business. As do the frantic condemnations from the UN Secretary General, European powers and heads of Arab states.
“If I’m reelected,” said Netanyahu on September 10, “I will impose Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. Give me the power to secure Israel’s security. Give me the power to decide on Israel’s borders.” Netanyahu qualified his pledge by saying that such a move requires a supportive coalition, which, if the polls are to be believed, is anything but certain. Netanyahu has also said that the annexation of the Jordan Valley would be only the first step toward annexing other areas in Judea and Samaria.
Following Netanyahu at the podium was Moshe Feiglin, head of the right-wing Zehut party, whose own speech was called by one of Israel’s leading historians the most Zionistic public address in recent years. “The Prime Minister’s statement is nothing short of historic,” said Feiglin, who recently merged his party with Netanyahu’s Likud in order to avoid wasting votes on right-wing parties that have little chance of passing the electoral threshold.
Feiglin went on to explain that Netanyahu’s vow marked the “first time since the signing of the damned Oslo Accord that the Israeli Right is ready to implement an alternative strategy to that of the Left.” The significance of the prime minister’s statement, Feiglin continued, lies in the fact that it unapologetically states that “we are not colonialists in our own land, that we have every right to impose sovereignty over this area because it is our Land, and ours alone.”
Naturally, Netanyahu is now facing harsh criticism over his new commitment. “Blue and White” party co-leader Yair Lapid said that he objects to the promised annexation on the grounds that “it is technically impossible.” But the simple fact of the matter is that the annexation of the Jordan Valley has been an Israeli consensus for decades. Only recently has the Left, which now on principle opposes anything proposed by the Right, raised any real objections.
The annexation of the Jordan Valley is known by Israelis as the “Allon Plan,” and was laid out already in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War by then-Minister of Labor Yigal Allon, the legendary commander of the Jewish paramilitary group Palmach during the 1948 War of Independence. Allon’s plan was accepted by most members of then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s coalition, and until recently has remained acceptable to both left- and right-wing Knesset factions. The original Allon Plan differs somewhat from the annexation map presented by Netanyahu, which includes the entirety of the Jordan Valley, but the idea remains the same, namely that Israel’s sovereign border must run the length of the Jordan Valley lest the Jewish state be left indefensible.
The Allon Plan was partially implemented by successive Labor (read: left-wing) governments, which built 16 Jewish settlements along the 87-kilometer Allon Road (routes 458, 508, 578) that begins at Kfar Adumim Junction in the south and ends at Mehola in the north. Both plans, that of Allon and Netanyahu’s new map, assume that an Arab state west of the Jordan River is an impossible prospect. The difference, however, is that Allon spoke only in terms of security. Netanyahu, as echoed by Feiglin, speaks in terms of national rights, as well as security.
If indeed he is reelected, and depending on the coalition he is able to form, Netanyahu will most certainly annex the Jordan Valley, and by doing so will put an end to the dream of a Palestinian state on ancient Jewish lands.