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Monday, January 18, 2010

Why the Jordan Valley still matters

From the aftermath of the Six Day War, every Israeli Prime Minister has taken the position that Israel cannot go back to the indefensible borders that it had before that war. And with the exception of Ehud Barak in 2000-01 and Ehud Olmert during his entire term, no Israel Prime Minister was willing to cede the Jordan Valley (see map at left).

Over the last ten years, we hear less and less about the Jordan Valley remaining part of Israel in any eventual settlement with the 'Palestinians.' According to former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold, this is the case for three reasons. First, Israel is now at peace with Jordan and Iraq after Saddam Hussein is badly weakened. Second, in the aftermath of the wrenching expulsion of Gaza's Jews, the emphasis has been on uprooing as few Israelis as possible in the context of ceding parts of Judea and Samaria. Third, once one starts talking about the percentages of Judea and Samaria that were offered by Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert to the 'Palestinians,' it is impossible to keep the Jordan Valley.

But, argues Dore Gold, keeping the Jordan Valley is vital to Israel's security. Here's why.
IT IS now well-understood by the Israeli public that the most crucial error of disengagement was abandoning the Philadelphi Corridor between the Gaza Strip and Egyptian Sinai, which allowed Hamas to build a vast tunnel network, with minimal Israeli countermeasures, and smuggle a huge arsenal into the Gaza Strip. From 2005, when Israel left Gaza, to 2006, the rate of rocket fire increased by 500%. New weapons, like Grad missiles, were fired for the first time at Ashkelon after the pullout. It does not require much imagination to understand what would happen in Judea and Samaria if Israel left the Jordan Valley - which should be seen as the Philadelphi Corridor of the West Bank.

For example, up until now, Israel has not had to deal with SA-7 shoulder-fired rockets that could be aimed at aircraft over Ben-Gurion Airport, because it is difficult to smuggle them into the West Bank as long as the area is blocked by the IDF in the Jordan Valley. Nor has Israel had to face Islamist volunteers who reinforce Hamas and could prolong a future war, like those who joined the jihad in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen or Somalia, because Israel can deny them access to the West Bank.

In fact, in its annual survey for 2009, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) noted that while there has been a decrease in the terrorist threat to Israel, the only exception to this positive trend is the increasing involvement of global jihadi groups, who at present are building up a presence in the Gaza Strip. Clearly they would be in the West Bank if they could get there.

WHAT ABOUT the Jordanians? Why does Israel have to stay in the Jordan Valley if the Jordanian army intercepts units of al-Qaida coming from Iraq or Syria?

The fact of the matter is that if Israel withdrew from the Jordan Valley and it became known among the global jihadi groups that the doors to the West Bank were open, the scale of the threat would change and the Jordanians would find it difficult to effectively halt the stream of manpower and weaponry into their territory.
Read the whole thing.

Most Israeli Jews are well aware that it is highly unlikely that any deal can be reached with the 'Palestinians' that would leave the Jordan Valley under our control. The results of the last election show that most Israeli Jews are more concerned with their own survival than with the creation of a 'Palestinian state' or pleasing Washington in the Age of Obama. So long as that continues to be the case, unless the 'Palestinians' decide to compromise on their demands, the status quo will remain in effect. Most Israelis are willing to live with that.


At 9:50 AM, Blogger judyinjerusalem said...

Thanks for including the map, Carl. The people building Maskiot (on the map in the northern part of the valley)very much understand the strategic necessity for their yishuv. They, by the way, are mostly young families evicted from their homes in Shirat Hayam, Gush Katif in 2005.


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