The Jordan Valley will be the eastern border of the future Palestinian state, with Palestinian rather than Israeli forces guarding it, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday in a statement that diverges sharply from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s past comments on the contours of a future Palestinian state.
Speaking to the first graduating class of Al-Istiqlal University, a new Palestinian security academy located in Jericho, Abbas said that securing a Palestinian state’s borders “is primarily the responsibility of Palestinian security [forces],” the official WAFA news agency reported. However, he added, international forces agreed upon between the sides would oversee the implementation of final status arrangements on security between Israel and the Palestinian state.
“The eastern borders of the Palestinian state, stretching from the Dead Sea, through the Jordan Valley and the central highlands, to the borders of Bisan [the Arab name for the Israeli city of Beit She’an] are Palestinian-Jordanian borders and will remain so. There is no other side between us; honestly, Israel is not between us,” Abbas told the graduates.
The presence of Israeli soldiers in the Jordan valley in a final status agreement is a point of contention between Netanyahu and his chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, the website of Israeli daily Maariv reported on Monday.
According to the report, Livni supports the introduction of international forces to the Jordan Valley, similar to the expanded role UNIFIL received in southern Lebanon under Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and which Livni was appointed by the government to oversee. Netanyahu, however, adamantly opposes international forces, insisting on an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley even within the framework of a Palestinian state.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Netanyahu, would not directly comment on Abbas’s statement. “The position of the prime minister on the issue is well known,” Regev told The Times of Israel.
Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian political commentator, said Abbas had likely raised the issue of the Jordan Valley publicly because it came up in secret negotiations between Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
“Abbas is speaking for the entire Palestinian population by asserting the Palestinian right over the Jordan Valley,” Kuttab told The Times of Israel.
In his speech, Abbas also addressed the new EU guidelines barring cooperation with Israeli settlements. He said the Palestinian leadership maintained ongoing contact with the Europeans in a bid to implement the settlement boycott set to go into effect on January 1, 2014.
“I take this opportunity to call on European and international companies working in the settlements to desist from doing so because it contravenes international law,” Abbas said.