Shaked urges Netanyahu: Annex Jordan Valley now
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Shaked urges Netanyahu: Annex Jordan Valley now

Railing at judiciary for placing limits on transitional governments, New Right MK, an ex-justice minister, says annexation of parts of West Bank can, should take place immediately

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Knesset on February 10, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Knesset on February 10, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

New Right MK Ayelet Shaked on Sunday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to disregard the potential limitations of a transitional government and annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank immediately.

“Of course a transitional government has the authority to annex the Jordan Valley,” she told a conference organized by the right-wing Makor Rishon newspaper in Jerusalem, claiming that Israel’s current government, which has been considered “transitional” since the April elections, should be able to act as would a regular government without special restrictions.

Railing against what she described as a “unbridled judiciary,” Shaked said that government legal advisers and judges had “created the current political chaos” gripping the country by interpreting the law so as to place “unnecessary and selective limits” on the government.

“A regime in which jurists decide what is correct and what should be promoted is undemocratic,” said Shaked, a former justice minister.

Netanyahu in September vowed that if reelected he would immediately annex the Jordan Valley, a swath of land linking the West Bank to Jordan that Israel views as a vital security asset, in what was widely seen as a bid to attract support from right-wing voters.

On November 18, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to pave the way for an Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley, and possibly other parts of the West Bank, when he declared that the administration would no longer consider Israeli settlements as necessarily illegal, repudiating a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that they were “inconsistent with international law.”

In recent days, Netanyahu has repeatedly called for a unity government to be formed so that Israel could take the step, as well as advancing the mutual defense pact, citing a supportive US administration.

His Likud party has even claimed that the premier is determined to say in office for an additional six months — a unity coalition negotiation demand — solely in order to see through the annexation of the Jordan Valley and the defense pact with the US.

Shaked said Sunday that he needn’t and shouldn’t wait.

“I think that the Netanyahu government must annex the Jordan Valley right now. I hope it does. I want it to. It must,” she said.

Speaking before Shaked at the same conference, Netanyahu insisted on Sunday morning that he did discuss the possible annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank with Pompeo during a meeting they held last week, despite a denial of the claim by the US State Department on Saturday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Lisbon, Portugal, December 4, 2019. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

“I want American recognition of our sovereignty in the Jordan Valley. This is important,” Netanyahu said, claiming that Israel has currently has a “great opportunity” to achieve it, along with securing an Israeli-US mutual defense pact.

“It is time to apply Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and to regularize all communities in Judea and Samaria, those in the blocs and those outside them. They will be part of the State of Israel,” he vowed, using a biblical term for the West Bank in reference to the so-called settlement blocs that many believe will be retained in any peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, during the 1967 Six Day War. Palestinians want the territory for a future state, with East Jerusalem as the capital. Before 1967, the territory was held by Jordan, which didn’t annex it but also didn’t hand it over to the Palestinians.

“It was said that we had not discussed a formal plan and that was true, but the issue was raised and I raised it with Secretary of State Pompeo and I intend to raise the issue with the Trump administration,” the prime minister said.

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