IDF sends more troops to Jordan Valley ahead of Trump plan release

No other reinforcements posted to West Bank, but military says it is conducting constant assessments amid fears of violence in response to so-called Deal of the Century

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Israeli soldiers of the Golani Brigade training in the Golan Heights, near the Israel-Syria border, January 19, 2015. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli soldiers of the Golani Brigade training in the Golan Heights, near the Israel-Syria border, January 19, 2015. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

The Israel Defense Forces announced it was deploying an additional infantry battalion to the Jordan Valley on Tuesday, hours before the release of US President Donald Trump’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The military said it was conducting constant situational assessments amid concerns of violence in response to the long-awaited proposal, which the Palestinian Authority has preemptively rejected. Trump’s plan is scheduled to be released to the public at 7 p.m. Israel time.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett instructed the IDF to remain on high alert ahead of the plan’s release and prepare for the possibility of violence, as well as for the threats by the PA to not restrain or disperse rioters in the West Bank.

“The minister instructed the troops to be prepared for the scenario of an immediate escalation [of violence] in light of the presentation of the plan and the agitation of the street, without the cooperation of the Palestinian Authority,” his office said.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, left, meets with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, second from left, Judea and Samaria Division commander Brig. Gen. Yaniv Alaluf, center, and other senior IDF officers in the West Bank on January 28, 2020. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

According to unconfirmed reports in Hebrew media, PA President Mahmoud Abbas instructed Palestinian security not to stop protesters from confronting Israeli forces in the West Bank as the US releases the plan.

According to the Ynet news site, Abbas said: “We need to enlist all the young people. Stay out on the streets. We’re going to be on emergency footing in the coming days… Ahead of us are difficult days and we will need to bear the consequences of refusing the agreement.”

The several hundred soldiers from the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance battalion that were set to be deployed to the IDF’s Jordan Valley Division had been conducting training exercises.

Palestinian demonstrators hold pictures of US President Donald Trump and and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near the West Bank city of Nablus, November 29, 2019. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Throughout the day, Bennett toured the West Bank and met with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, the head of the Central Command Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan, and the commander of the Judea and Samaria Division Brig. Gen. Yaniv Alaluf.

“The IDF and troops in the field are prepared for any eventuality. We have before us days that will determine the borders and the application of sovereignty,” Bennett said during his visit to the West Bank.

“Threats by the Palestinians will not deter us,” he added.

The Jordan Valley has been a source of contention in recent months, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to apply Israeli sovereignty to the region if elected in the upcoming parliamentary elections. His main rival, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, has made similar calls, but stressed the need for international agreement on the matter.

The Jordan Valley is a key strategic region running north-south along the Jordanian border that has long been seen by Israeli defense planners and political leaders as the country’s preferred eastern frontier.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Trump’s plan proposes that Israel would have sovereignty over much of the valley.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Trump at the White House on Tuesday for the unveiling of the administration’s plan — the second meeting of the two leaders in as many days. The two leaders will deliver joint remarks for 35 minutes.

“Peace in the Middle East has been long sought, for many, many years and decades and centuries. This is an opportunity. We’ll see what happens. Whatever it is, it is,” Trump said Monday in the White House Rose Garden, standing next to Netanyahu.

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

“Tomorrow at 12 o’clock, we’re going to show a plan, it’s been worked on by everybody,” he added. “And we’ll see whether or not it catches hold. If it does, that would be great. And if it doesn’t, we’re going to have to live with that too. But I think that it might have a chance.”

According to the Reuters news agency, citing a US official, Trump was set to tell Netanyahu and his chief political rival, Benny Gantz, who was also in Washington, that they have until the Knesset elections to work on the administration’s plan, potentially throwing the high-stakes diplomatic gambit into Israel’s domestic political stew.

“You have six weeks to get this [plan] going, if you want it,” the unnamed official claimed Trump would say.

The plan is reportedly tilted in favor of Israel’s territorial and security demands, and the Palestinian leadership has already rejected it.

Abbas has reportedly refused to take phone calls from Trump in the lead-up to the plan’s release.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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