by: Ilse Strauss
Wednesday, 11 September 2019 | With less than a week to go before Israel heads to the polls for the second round of national elections this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday offered a large section of the Israeli society a prime reason for selecting him to lead the country for another term. If reelected, the longtime premier vowed, he would immediately apply Israeli sovereignty over the eastern quarter of Judea and Samaria, known as the Jordan Valley—with Jewish state sovereignty for all Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria to follow in due time.
Addressing a crowd of supporters near Tel Aviv last night, Netanyahu—standing strategically next to a map of the Jordan Valley mounted on an easel—announced: “There is one place where we can apply Israeli sovereignty immediately after the elections. If I receive from you, citizens of Israel, a clear mandate to do so… today I announce my intention to apply, with the formation of the next government, Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.”
“I will not do anything without getting a clear mandate from the public, and so the citizens of Israel, I ask you for a clear mandate to do this,” Netanyahu said. “There is a unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something with broad consensus and bring safe permanent borders to the State of Israel. This will ensure that Judea and Samaria do not become Gaza, and that…Netanya and Tel Aviv will not become like communities along the border of Gaza.”
Gesturing to the map, Netanyahu continued. “This is the eastern shield that ensures that we will never return to being a country with a width of a few kilometers. This map guarantees strategic depth to Israel. It defines our eastern border.”
The Jordan Valley is home to approximately 8,000 Israelis living in some 30 communities, all of whom will benefit from Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.
Law-makers from Judea and Samaria responded to Netanyahu’s announcement with a chorus of praise.
The Yesha Council, an umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, celebrated the prime minister’s promise as “a historic event” and “unprecedented news for the State of Israel.” Jordan Valley Regional Council chairman David Elhayani lauded Netanyahu “for giving us nothing short of a historic moment.”
Israelis are not the only ones who call the Jordan Valley home. Netanyahu’s proposed plan will encircle Jericho—a Palestinian city where the Palestinian Authority has military and administrative control—as well as seven other Palestinian communities.
The prime minister was, however, quick to point out that Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley can be achieved without annexing any Palestinians and while retaining absolute freedom of movement for Palestinians throughout Judea and Samaria.
Netanyahu hinted that his prospective plans have the nod of approval from international role-players, particularly the US. “Over the past few months I led a diplomatic effort, and over the past few days the diplomatic conditions have become ready,” Netanyahu said in what the Jerusalem Post calls a likely reference to the prime minister’s meeting last week in London with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and a lengthy telephonic discussion with US Vice President Mike Pence.
According the Jerusalem Post, the White House does not consider Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley an obstacle to US President Donald Trump’s long-awaited plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which is reportedly due for release after the Israeli elections on September 12. In fact, Israeli sources said that the “Deal of the Century” calls for Israel keeping the strip of land bordering the Jordan River.
Netanyahu assured his supporters that his plans go beyond the Jordan Valley, reiterating his promise of Israeli sovereignty over all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. The close friendship between Netanyahu and Trump, the prime minister said, puts Israel in a position “to guarantee settlement in the heart of our homeland.”
This would, however, be done in close cooperation with his US counterpart, Netanyahu said. “Out of respect for President Trump and out of great faith in our friendship, I’ll wait before applying sovereignty over settlements until the presentation of the diplomatic plan of the [US] president. As much as is possible, I want to apply sovereignty over settlements and other areas in maximum coordination with the US.”
The Importance of Judea and Samaria
Judea and Samaria—or the so-called West Bank— is arguably the most contested piece of real estate in the world. The Palestinian narrative claims it as their historic own, a land demanded for their supposed future state. Global media portrays it as a cauldron of violence, unrest and vehement opposition. And world governments point accusatory fingers at the Israeli homes, villages and towns in the area, alluding that the so-called “Jewish settlers” stand as one of the sole stumbling blocks to finally achieving peace in the Middle East.
The term West Bank is relatively new, coined less than 70 years ago. The State of Israel was but a day old when the army of Jordan joined forces with four other Arab countries to annihilate the Jewish people. Against all odds, Israel’s ragtag army triumphed. Yet when the ceasefire lines were drawn, Jordan, a country located solely on the east bank of the Jordan River, had managed to seize a patch of the Promised Land. The Hashemite Kingdom renamed the occupied area the “West Bank,” a name chosen due to its location on the western bank of the Jordan River.
Israel reclaimed the area in the 1967 Six Day War. While Israel has controlled the area, it has never been annexed and it does not formally form part of the Jewish state. Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley would thus officially make the area part of Israel, giving it the same status as Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, the Jerusalem Post explains.
Judea and Samaria hold a special place in the heart of Israelis—and Israeli history. Years before the armies of Jordan seized it in occupation, centuries before the Palestinians tried to force traces of their past into a land that bare no witness of their ancient history and millennia before it became a standing item of contention on the agenda of international bodies, Judea and Samaria was renowned for something entirely different: the Biblical heartland of the nation of Israel.
Judea and Samaria set the backdrop against which more than 80% of the events in the Old Testament unfold. The ancient ruins, villages, hills and valleys served as the stomping ground for the Jewish patriarchs, the hometowns of Hebrew prophets, the battle fields of Biblical judges and the seats of reign for Israel’s mighty kings. The footsteps and fingerprints of Israel’s Biblical history—and that of Christianity—are etched into the very rock and soil of this region.
Posted on September 11, 2019
Source: (Bridges for Peace, September 11, 2019)
Photo Credit: Bukvoed/wikimedia.org
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