The Jordan Valley: To annex or not to annex?

I need to first ask the reader to do something very difficult: to put aside your feelings about Israel and about the Land of Israel. I want you to think about the People of Israel.

The State of Israel enjoys today an imperfect Peace (but peace nonetheless) with Egypt and Jordan, as well as burgeoning ties with some of the Gulf States; these ties are not developing because of a sudden Arab love for Israel, but because of the common fear of Iran. 

The current caretaker government, a coalition of right and center-left, was not born of a sudden reconciliation and an embrace of unity, but rather of a political stand off, due in part to the grow of the Arab sector in Israeli politics. The marriage between Gantz and Netanyahu is one of convenience, and it can fall apart as soon as one of them feel they can overthrow the other. But both have agreed to move ahead with the annexation of the Jordan Valley,,, why?

Each of them justifies the position, ideologically, in different ways, but given the dynamics of Israeli politics, it all comes down to "do not alienate the US". You see, Israelis have always been, since the beginnings of the State, extremely sensitive to the reactions of whoever sat in the Washington hot seat. The reasons are historical and complex, and I don't see the need to go into them today. What matters is that any Israeli (Jewish) politician who challenges the US, will pay a heavy price at the ballot box and seriously jeopardize his/her political future.

The push of the current US Administration for an Israeli extension of sovereignty over the Jordan Valley presents a conundrum for Israel. The Palestinians are no longer at the negotiation table, and probably a better description would be that they kicked the gameboard althogether. The extension of sovereignty to the Golan Heights and the recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel represented the recognition of a fait-accompli. It affected and put tension in Israel's relationship with Egypt and Jordan, but the tension was manegeable.

The announced annexation of the Jordan Valley is provoking a very different reaction. Egypt has made significant strides in changing the Egyptians' perception of Jews and Israel - when 15 or 20 years ago, they would still broadcast anti Semitic TV Miniseries over Ramadan, these days they are trying to rescue and honor the Jewish history in Egypt. It didn't occurr out of the blue. The Egyptian leadership made it happen.

The story is very different in Jordan. About half or slightly more than half the population of the Kingdom is of Palestinian descent, as is the current queen (married to Abdullah II). Annexation of the Jordan Valley represents, on one hand, a move on the borders of Jordan - and on the other, a nail in the coffin of Palestinian aspirations. The treaty between Israel and Jordan survived thus far because of a strong commitment of the Hashemite dynasty to the treaty, and the respect in the sreets of Jordan for their king, descendant in the 41st generation of the Prophet Mohammed. But the annexation of the Valley might be more than the King of Jordan is willing or able to accept.

The annexation of the Valley would also provide those among Palestinians who would like to abrogate all the agreements with Israel a perfect pretext. With Israel formally annexing unilaterally 20% of the land of the West Bank, the Palestinian leadership (currently in life support) will receive a new support from the Palestinian street that might allow them to start a third Intifadah or worse.

All this probable scenarios also motivate Europe to distance itself of Israel. Over the last 5 years, relations between Israel and Europe were on the rebound - but the high probability of the above scenarios, representing a clear and present danger to the regional stability, is moving the European Nations to seriously consider repraisals against Israel and a reevaluation of the existing relationships.

There are many historical and legal reasons why Israel can claim a right to the Jordan Valley - and that claim is backed by the current US Administration. But the move of annexation has the serious and plausible potential to unleash a violent storm in Israel's borders as well as in Judea and Samaria. I believe than in a situation such as this, honest leaders need to evaluate whether the fact that they can do something means they have to. Of course, this is my opinion as a Diaspora Jew and I recognize that the decision belongs to those who chose to make Israel their home. But as a Jew for whom Israel is central to my Jewish identity, it would pain me to see the undoing of the most important collective Jewish enterprise since the Talmud.



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