Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Tuesday to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if he is reelected next week.
Having previously alerted the media he was going to make a “dramatic announcement,” Netanyahu stated, “I announce my intention to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.”
Netanyahu cited the context of Trump administration’s peace plan, set to be unveiled immediately after the Knesset elections next Tuesday, calling it “a great challenge” and a “great opportunity.”
“This is a historic opportunity,” he said, “a one-time moment to apply Israeli sovereignty over our settlements in Judea and Samaria.”
Accusing his political opponents Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid of secretly wanting to unilaterally disengage from the West Bank, Netanyahu asked for a “clear mandate” from voters that would allow him to pursue annexation.
However, Netanyahu said, “Out of respect for President Trump, I am waiting … until the unveiling of the [peace] plan.”
Despite this, Netanyahu said that “there is one place where it is possible to apply Israeli sovereignty” before the peace plan is made public — the Jordan Valley.
“This is the eastern border of the State of Israel,” he said. “This is the eastern defensive wall. A defensive wall that ensures we will never return to being a state a few kilometers wide. And for this, the IDF must be present in the entire Jordan Valley and not just a narrow strip.”
Netanyahu added that he “hopes the IDF will always stay there, and that the Jordan Valley will be under our sovereignty forever.”
He pointed out hat “we are not annexing a single Palestinian,” showing on a map that the Palestinian population centers in the Jordan Valley would not be under Israeli sovereignty and would have access roads connecting them to the rest of the West Bank.
Turning to the issue of the upcoming elections, Netanyahu said, “I will not do anything without receiving a clear mandate from the public; and therefore, citizens of Israel, I ask you for a clear mandate to do this.”
The goal, he asserted, was to create “permanent secure borders for the State of Israel.”
Doing so, Netanyahu claimed, would ensure “that Judea and Samaria will never become Gaza, and Kfar Saba, Netanya and Tel Aviv will never become the ‘Judea and Samaria envelope.’’”
The Israeli news site Walla reported that the head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, David Elhayani, hailed Netanyahu’s announcement even before it was made, describing it as “a historic moment.”
Elhayani said that Netanyahu had made not only his dream come true, but also that of “an overwhelming majority of Israelis.”