In a bid to prevent a full Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley under a future peace agreement with the Palestinians, Likud MK Miri Regev on Thursday introduced legislation to annex the area and its access routes.
Regev’s bill is likely to secure a majority in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, Channel 2 news reported on Thursday night, since all Likud ministers on the panel will support it. Its passage into law, however, would be far more complicated.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has insisted on maintaining an IDF presence to secure Israel’s eastern border even after the advent of Palestinian statehood, has been less clear-cut over whether he would insist on retaining the settlements along the Jordan Valley. His defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, by contrast, stated earlier this month that he opposed the dismantling of the settlements there, since, he said, a civilian presence was critical to the viability of maintaining security control.
Netanyahu is unlikely to intervene to block the initial passage of the bill, but would ultimately seek to thwart it, the TV report said, adding that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), Israel’s chief negotiator in talks with the Palestinians, will adamantly oppose the legislation.
The prime minister is planning to expand settlements elsewhere, however. At around the same time as the third of four groups of Palestinian terrorists go free as part of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks next week, the prime minister is set to announce a series of new settlement construction plans. Channel 2 on Thursday said 600 new homes would be approved over the Green Line inside Jerusalem and another 800 inside various existing West Bank settlement blocs. The report said that the prime minister would also start the planning process for another 1,000 settlement units.
Israel’s Army Radio reported Tuesday that US-drafted security proposals for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord accept almost all of Israel’s demands, and allow for an Israeli military presence in the border area between Jordan and the West Bank, but would require that all of Israel’s settlements in the Jordan Valley be dismantled.
The proposals, discussed by US Secretary of State John Kerry with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on his recent visits here, infuriated Abbas, who last week went over Kerry’s head and wrote a letter of protest to US President Barack Obama about his concerns.
According to the Army Radio report, the Kerry plan provides for a massively upgraded border fence along the border between the West Bank and Jordan, with the IDF maintaining sole responsibility for the border for the first 10 years of a peace agreement. After that, border authority would be shared, in some yet-to-be-finalized constellation, between Israel and the PA.
Netanyahu, in responding to the Kerry plan, told the Americans to discuss the specifics with Ya’alon, in part because he knew that his defense minister would object to sections of it, the radio report said. Ya’alon is also reported to want the IDF to retain the right to enter any part of the West Bank if necessary to thwart terrorism.
The US, under the proposal, would provide an additional West Bank 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. Amos Gilad, a senior Defense Ministry official, stressed on Tuesday morning that such intelligence would have “no value” whatsoever if Israeli soldiers were not deployed in the area to act upon it.