- Last year, Netanyahu vowed to annex the Jordan Valley. His rivals decried it as a “political stunt”;
- Now, challenger Benny Gantz is promising to do the same;
- Bibi has upped the ante by pledging full Israeli sovereignty over biblical heartland;
- Whoever wins the election, the Palestinians will be the true losers.
Israelis are right-wing. Get over it
Israel’s past two elections have failed to produce a stable government. But they have confirmed that a solid majority of the Israeli electorate leans to the right of the political spectrum.
That might not be true in all aspects of Israeli politics. Many here remain of a socialist mindset, and therefore what Westerners might consider “left-wing” when it comes to things like healthcare.
But as regards regional security, the Middle East peace process, and in particular control of the biblical heartlands and Jerusalem, most Israelis are most definitely right-wing.
Netanyahu’s rivals decry Jordan Valley promise
Ahead of the past year’s second national election in September 2019, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to annex the Jordan Valley if he were chosen for yet another term at the nation’s helm.
At the time, his rivals called it a political stunt aimed at mobilizing right-wing voters.
According to Yair Lapid, no. 2 in the “Blue and White” party, what Netanyahu was promising was “technically impossible.”
It’s not that Lapid and “Blue and White” chief Benny Gantz necessarily disagree with the idea of annexing the Jordan Valley. Doing so holds great strategic importance.
But they are, or at least were, of the mind that the international community would never permit such a move by Israel, and therefore Netanyahu was just playing games to win more votes.
Netanyahu’s rivals make same Jordan Valley promise
But now, in the run-up to the third election in less than a year, , challenger Gantz is promising to do what he and Lapid previously claimed was “impossible.”
During a tour of the Jordan Valley this week, Gantz stated:
“The Jordan Valley is Israel’s eastern defensive barrier in any future conflict. Israeli governments that spoke of the possibility of returning the area to Jordanian control were making a grave strategic and security mistake, and we see this strip of land as an inseparable part of the State of Israel.”
Netanyahu ups the ante
Not willing to be outdone, Bibi quickly upped the ante by demanding of Gantz via Twitter that he support Israel’s immediate annexation of the Jordan Valley.
“Why wait for after the elections if annexation of the Jordan Valley can be done now with a broad approval of the Knesset?”
למה לחכות לאחרי הבחירות אם אפשר להחיל ריבונות על בקעת הירדן כבר עכשיו בהסכמה רחבה בכנסת?
בני גנץ, אני מצפה לתשובתך עוד הערב, אלא אם אחמד טיבי שם לך וטו.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) January 21, 2020
Perhaps fearful that Gantz’s “Blue and White” would again win more seats than his own Likud party in March, Netanyahu reportedly turned to the Trump Administration the very next day.
According to a report by Kan 11 News, Netanyahu’s office appealed to the White House to give a green light to the immediate Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley before Israelis go to the polls on March 2.
Netanyahu likely already has the support he needs to win a Knesset vote on the matter, especially after Gantz all but committed his own party to annexation. If US President Donald Trump were to publicly approve, the expected shrieks from Europe would not be enough to prevent this historic move.
But Bibi’s never one to put all his eggs in one basket.
While he and Gantz were squabbling over the timing of annexing the Jordan Valley, Netanyahu told a campaign event in Jerusalem that he will also extend full Israeli sovereignty over all existing Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.
“Not only will we not uproot anyone,” said Netanyahu, referring to the evacuation of Gaza’s Jewish settlements, “we will apply Israeli law to all Israeli communities without exception.”
Palestinians out in the cold
Needless to say, the Palestinians are taking all this very hard.
Whoever emerges victorious in the upcoming Israeli election, the big loser will be the Palestinian Authority and its dream of a sovereign, contiguous state.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tried to counter by threatening to go to the international community and request that the lettered zoning of the so-called “West Bank” be done away with, and that the entire area be given the status of today’s “Area A” – areas fully recognized as “Palestinian.”
But, Abbas was effectively “farting into the wind,” as it were.
Trump could not care less about the international reaction to his backing Israeli moves that most Americans have long supported. And both Israeli prime ministerial frontrunners now recognize the opportunity presented by Trump’s presidency.