Israel’s defense establishment has accelerated its preparations in recent weeks for a major escalation in security tensions across the West Bank, in response to declared aspirations by the political echelons in Jerusalem ‘to assert the legal sovereignty of the Jewish State over the Jordan Valley and parts of the Biblical districts of Judea and Samaria.’
While senior Israeli Defense officials confirmed to TV7 that there is no concrete intelligence that indicates a definite violent escalation, the prevailing security assessment notes that ‘mounting-tensions across the West Bank may produce lone sparks that could consequently ignite a rapid escalation in the security situation on the ground.’
In light of this assessment and in close coordination with Alternate Premier and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the IDF bolstered its operational preparedness across the West Bank and currently regards these disputed territories as its top priority – ahead of its operational approach toward the Islamist-controlled Gaza Strip and separately toward the northern sector vis-à-vis the Lebanese Iranian-proxy Hezbollah. The preparations are currently focused primarily on updating the operational orders on the ground, approving plans for the military’s regional brigades that operate across the West Bank, and for the possibility of war. Among others, war games are being held by the IDF General Staff and the IDF Central Command.
It is important to highlight that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had yet to inform the IDF’s top brass over his intentions and timetable. A senior military official, who spoke with TV7 on condition of anonymity, revealed that the main reason for Netanyahu’s reluctance to share his intentions with the IDF stem out of the military’s contention vis-à-vis the proposed timing for annexation and the security challenges that may impact Israel from such a move. The official stressed, however, that while there remain conflicting opinions about the matter of annexation, the voiced contention does not necessarily pertain “if (the assertion of sovereignty should be implemented), but rather, how and when.”
Meanwhile, amid the Israeli military’s operational preparations for potential consequences on the ground, Jerusalem’s Alternate Premier and Defense Minister Benny Gantz is reportedly scheduled to visit the Jordanian capital Amman – as part of Jerusalem’s efforts to calm tensions with the Hashemite Kingdom over prospects of Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley in particular. According to a report by the London-based Rai al-Youm daily, which made the initial revelation, the expected trip will be the first official trip of the former Israeli military chief in the capacity of Defense Minister. Nevertheless, Gantz’s office refused to confirm nor deny the report.