Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his election pledge to assert Israel’s sovereignty over the country’s eastern Jordan Valley.
In remarks made at a special session at the Knesset, Jerusalem’s parliament, in memory of late IDF general and lawmaker Rehavam Ze’evi – Netanyahu insisted that sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, which together with the districts of Judea and Samaria make-up what is commonly known West Bank, is vital for the security of the Jewish State. According to the Israeli PM, “Not only are the Samaritan Mountains essential to our existence, but so are the Samaritan slopes in the East – including the Jordan Valley – [they] should always remain in our hands. They give us strategic depth; they give us strategic height, and it (Israeli presence) also restores life to the barren desert.”
The Israeli leader further explained that “The Jordan Valley is a necessary security belt against calamity that might emerge from radical Islam, because who knows what tomorrow may bring in the volatile Middle East. And that is why we will act to secure that the Jordan Valley will be part of the sovereign state of Israel, ensure its security, secure its growth and prosperity.”
His comments vis-à-vis the Jordan Valley came amid a visit to Israel by U.S. President Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who held separate meetings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with the Israeli Prime Minister and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and his domestic rival, former IDF Chief of Staff and Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz. Kushner, who has been spearheading the Trump administration’s so-called “deal of the century” to end the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is reportedly evaluating Jerusalem’s political deadlock – ahead of Washington’s anticipated unveiling of its initiative’s political dimension.
In contrast to previous U.S. Administrations, the senior White House adviser refused to rule-out, nor endorse, Netanyahu’s bid to assert Israel’s sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. In an interview to Israel’s domestic News Channel 13, Kushner stressed that President Trump likes to keep his options open regarding ways of moving forward. When asked by a reporter if Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement of his plan to annex the settlements in the West Bank and Jordan Valley was “coordinated in any way with the White house?” Kushner replied, “We understand how essential the Jordan valley is to Israel security, and obviously it is something that we are (going to) take into consideration.” Then the reporter inquired whether “When Netanyahu spoke, he spoke also not only about security but also about sovereignty,” Kushner said “If there’s an actual proposal that’s put forward, we will look at it and will have discussions but our hope is that after there’s a government formation we’ll be able to look at the full comprehensive picture of what we would like to see. And again, it includes compromises from both sides but also a lot of opportunities for both sides to move forward.” This was followed by the question “So you are not ruling out the possibility of some sort of annexation in the Jordan valley?” to which the American top diplomat answered “We like to keep our options open, that’s the Trumpian way.”
It is important to note that Kushner did not provide a time-table nor a projection regarding President Trump’s plan to unveil the political dimension of the long-awaited U.S.-devised initiative.