Former IDF general: Israel must control Jordan Valley

Foreign force would not be able to keep area safe from missiles, terror infiltrators, warns ex-West Bank commander

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Avi Mizrahi, former commander of the IDF's Central Command (photo: Flash90)
Maj. Gen. (res.) Avi Mizrahi, former commander of the IDF's Central Command (photo: Flash90)

A former commander of the IDF’s Central Command, which oversees Israeli control over the West Bank, said Sunday that Israel’s security required continued control over the Jordan Valley.

According to Maj. Gen. (res.) Avi Mizrahi, Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley would have two missions: to prevent a missile threat from the West Bank akin to the threat from Gaza, and to prevent the transfer across the Jordanian-West Bank border of explosives, people and equipment used in terror attacks.

“In order to do that you need to control the border and the border crossing-points,” he said. “To make that happen, you need to be there.”

Mizrahi rejected the possibility that these goals could be achieved by a third-party force.

“I wouldn’t rely on foreign forces,” he said. “Our history shows that every time the deployment of international forces was tried in one form or another, their output in the field was not what we wanted. We need to rely on ourselves.”

On Saturday, the Arab League rejected the US-proposed security plan that Kerry transmitted to Israelis and Palestinians earlier this month which would have allowed Israeli troops to remain in the Jordan Valley for several years.

Among its key elements, the security plan reportedly provides for a series of crossings along the Jordan Valley border between the West Bank and Jordan which would be jointly controlled by Israel and the PA. The border itself, however, would remain under full Israeli control, with the IDF joined only by a symbolic Palestinian security presence. These arrangements would hold for many years, but not necessarily permanently, the implication being that in a future period of stability and mutual confidence, Israel might transfer more authority to the Palestinians.

The US, under the proposal, would provide an additional security “envelope,” which would utilize drones and other high-tech equipment to provide real-time intelligence on any terrorist threats and other unlawful border activity.

The Palestinian Authority reportedly rejected the plan earlier this month. Although it subsequently denied this, the PA is firmly opposed to any ongoing Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley or elsewhere in its intended state.

Meanwhile, a former PA minister said Sunday he had heard claims from Palestinian leaders that an agreement could be reached with Israel in the coming weeks, but noted he could not be sure about the accuracy of the comments.

Former Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs Ashraf al-Ajrami, July 8, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)
Former Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs Ashraf al-Ajrami, July 8, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)

Ashraf al-Ajrami, a former PA minister for prisoner affairs, made the comments during interview with Army Radio on Sunday morning in which he also laid out Palestinian objections to an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley in the framework of a peace deal.

Ajrami said he had heard there could be an agreement along the lines of the deal suggested by US Secretary of State John Kerry last month during his visit to the region, but that he had his doubts.

“I don’t know how much truth there is in that,” he said. Ajrami rejected Israel’s claim that such a force was necessary to prevent terror activities.

“If a Palestinian state is established, who will be involved in terror?” he asked. “On behalf of whom will they carry out terror?”

The former minister asserted that the best way to end terror activities is to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “If there is peace there will be security,” he said and claimed that in the wake of an agreement even Hamas and al-Qaeda-affiliated organizations will recognize Israel.

Without peace, there was no way to end the violence, he asserted. “Even when the IDF held every centimeter of the West Bank there were terror attacks,” he said.

He suggested a third-party force, perhaps from the US, as a possible compromise that would maintain security along the border with Jordan.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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