Israel should annex the Jordan Valley

Only 60,000 Palestinians live in the Jordan Valley, so there is no demographic problem that would result from annexation.

By MICHAEL HARRIS/There is nothing that should prevent Israel from annexing the Jordan Valley, a territory that encompasses 25 percent of the West Bank. Israel has not annexed the West Bank because it is undesirable to give citizenship to 2.5 million Palestinians, but the demography of the Jordan Valley is different.

Only 60,000 Palestinians live in the Jordan Valley, so there is no demographic problem that would result from annexation.

Israel would be annexing a territory that has provided the best natural defense against conventional warfare along Israel’s eastern front. Since this valley includes the relatively small border between the West Bank and Jordan (97 kilometers), Israel has been able to easily prevent the movement of military personnel from Jordan into the West Bank, and ultimately into Israel.

This is why proposals like those of former prime minister Ehud Olmert need to be reconsidered, for according to Haaretz he offered to cede the Jordan Valley and move Israel’s border to “the route of the security fence.” Olmert would have expanded Israel’s new eastern border to approximately 700 kilometers, which would not only require an exorbitant number of IDF personnel to defend, but would also leave Israel with a severe lack of strategic depth.

Without the Jordan Valley, enemy troops could enter the West Bank and position themselves less than 16 km. from the Mediterranean Sea. From this point, they could invade Israel, reach the coastline, cut the Jewish state in half, and lay the groundwork for its ultimate destruction.

One common counter argument is that strategic depth is pointless in the modern era, since nations can now use long-range missiles to strike any target in Israel. Proponents of this argument like to use the 1991 Gulf War as an example, for Iraq was able to shoot Scud missiles at Israel despite the presence of IDF troops in the Jordan Valley.

Strategic depth may not be an antidote for Scud missiles, but the threat of long-range missiles is not nearly as severe as an enemy ground invasion. Scud missiles may cause large amounts of destruction, but missiles alone are not enough for one country to take control of another. In other words, the Jordan Valley is Israel’s only reliable defense against the doomsday threat of invading ground forces from the east.

Others downplay the threat of conventional warfare from the east, for this would require the cooperation of Jordan, a nation that has signed a peace treaty with Israel.

However, as the Arab Spring is bringing anti- Israel forces like the Muslim Brotherhood to power, a regime change in Jordan could lead the new government to cooperate with other nations to destroy the Jewish state.

Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, the only territorial link between the rest of the West Bank and non-Israeli territory, provides protection from Palestinian terrorism as well, for it could prevent Palestinian terror cells from importing weapons over land.

Palestinian terrorists could still import weapons via aerial transport, but this problem can be fixed through ensuring permanent control over all of the West Bank’s airspace.

This has been mentioned by many Israeli politicians as a fundamental security requirement, and was even reiterated by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech.

It is true that terrorists could still manufacture their weapons domestically, but evidence shows that many of these organizations depend on outside help. For instance, Hamas produces some of its own rockets, but many of them, especially the advanced rockets like the Iranian Fajr-5, originate from outside the Gaza Strip.

Despite all of this, some posit that Israel can maintain a military presence in the valley within the framework of Palestinian sovereignty.

Others even suggest that foreign military bodies, such as NATO, can replace the entire IDF presence in the Jordan Valley, and achieve the same security benefits.

However, the future Palestinian government would likely rally the international community behind them against what they see as a violation of their sovereignty. This would force Israel to choose between an impending diplomatic crisis, or an irreversible security nightmare.

The government of Israel should begin to view the Jordan Valley as a separate entity from the rest of the West Bank, which should be subject to a separate discussion. This will lay the groundwork for the time in which Israel hopefully extends its law, jurisdiction and administration over the entire Jordan Valley.

The writer is the president of TorchPAC, the pro-Israel political organization at New York University.

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