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On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved a bill proposed by Likud Member of Knesset Miri Regev to annex the Jordan Valley. The bill would ensure that the region remains within Israeli sovereignty even if a peace agreement is reached with the Palestinians.

ANNEX JORDAN VALLEY, MINISTERS DEMAND

The bill was supported by eight ministers from the Likud, Israel Beitenu and HaBayit Hayehudi parties.

Resolving the dispute over the Jordan Valley, an area which Israel captured in the 1967 war and is situated in eastern Samaria, has become a key sticking point in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Israel has called for maintaining troops in the Jordan Valley under any agreement; Palestinian negotiators have said the area should be completely empty of Israelis.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that implementation of the annexation bill would destroy the peace process.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier this month, in Washington, that resolving the dispute surrounding the Jordan Valley is “a critical threading of a needle that has to happen in order to achieve an agreement.”

Roughly 70 percent of Israelis are opposed to an IDF withdrawal from the Jordan Valley, noting previous failed attempts by international forces to maintain peace and security in the region.

“There is no divide between settlement and security. The Jordan Valley is consensus for the citizens of Israel,” Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) declared, Ynet news said. “Never mind – let them know the Jordan Valley will be Israeli under any final agreement.”

APPEAL OF BILL TO ANNEX JORDAN VALLEY COULD TOPPLE THE MOVE

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), chief Israeli negotiator in the peace talks, along with Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, both of Yesh Atid, appealed the bill; Livni labelled it “irresponsible” and “populist,” alleging that such a move would be harmful to Israel.

The appeal could destroy the bill by placing the decision in the hands of the Israeli prime minister, who had warned against it.

Regev reiterated her position, stressing that the Jordan Valley is the “safety belt” on the eastern border.

“The ministerial committee’s approval of this bill now, when there are talks with the Palestinians, is a clear statement by the government that the towns in the Jordan Valley are a strategic and security asset of the State of Israel that must stay in our hands,” she asserted.

“Israel must decide to extend its sovereignty over this wide swath of land, which is relatively sparse in terms of Palestinian population, and to say openly: The Jordan Valley will remain under Israeli sovereignty forever and ever,” said MK Moti Yogev (HaBayit Hayehudi), Israel Hayom reported.

The Jordan Valley region currently has the legal status of captured territory administered by the IDF. The proposed bill is similar to the 1981 Golan Heights Bill, which applied Israeli civil law and effectively annexed the Syrian border region to Israel.

The annexation vote took place a day after Israel had announced the names of 26 Palestinian prisoners, mostly terrorists with blood on their hands, scheduled for release this week. It is the third prisoner release this year; a fourth and final one is set to occur at a later date. Washington considers the freeing of Palestinian prisoners as a confidence-building measure in the peace process.

Author: Shoshana Kesner, contributor, United with Israel
Date: Dec. 30, 2013