World Zionist Organization, MKs push Jordan Valley annexation with new Knesset group

WZO chief says Israel needs to ‘implement sovereignty’ over West Bank area immediately, is backed by coalition ministers

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

The West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Efraim on the hills of the Jordan Valley, February 18, 2020. (AP/Ariel Schalit, File)
The West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Efraim on the hills of the Jordan Valley, February 18, 2020. (AP/Ariel Schalit, File)

The head of the World Zionist Organization called for Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley on Wednesday, as right-wing lawmakers launched a new Knesset group with that goal.

“Fifty-six years since we liberated Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley, and there’s still no sovereignty,” Yaakov Hagoel said, using the biblical terms for the West Bank. “We’re patient, but we’re running out of patience, and need action.”

“We need to implement sovereignty. Both the right and the left want sovereignty in the Jordan Valley, and the sooner the better,” Hagoel said. The WZO is a non-governmental umbrella group based in Jerusalem and focused on promoting Zionism.

The Jordan Valley is a swath of land on Israel’s eastern border between the West Bank and Jordan that Israel sees as a vital security asset. It is home to Israeli settlements and Palestinian communities.

Hagoel made the push for annexation as coalition lawmakers launched the new Knesset group, called Sovereignty over the Jordan Valley First.

The group, launched “with the aim of bringing a major achievement in applying sovereignty in the Jordan Valley,” is led by Likud MK Dan Illouz and Shas MK Yosef Taieb, WZO said in a statement.

“We’re at a historic moment. If there isn’t significant progress on this issue, there will be tears shed for generations,” Illouz said.

“The historical roots of the people of Israel are in the areas of Judea and Samaria, and the way to secure our place is to stand firm for our historical right to the Land of Israel,” Illouz said. “The road begins with applying sovereignty in the Jordan Valley.”

The World Zionist Organization’s Yaakov Hagoel poses for a picture at the WZO’s offices in Jerusalem, June 15, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Above all, this is important because the Jordan Valley belongs to the Jewish people and the Land of Israel,” Taieb said.

Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, Settlements and National Missions Minister Orit Strock, Cabinet Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf, 12 MKs and several settler leaders took part in the launch event.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed for annexation during his previous tenure as premier.

Netanyahu, during the 2020 unveiling of the Trump administration’s peace plan, declared that Israel would immediately annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley. The declaration reportedly caught the US off guard and caused some friction with the White House. Netanyahu also said during a 2019 political campaign that if reelected he would annex the Jordan Valley.

Netanyahu dropped the annexation push as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords agreements, which saw Israel normalize ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco.

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