All Israel

Is annexation on the horizon in the West Bank?

One Knesset member wants to fastback bill to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley

A banner in favor of Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley, Judea and Samaria outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, June 21, 2020. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

One Knesset member has submitted a bill calling for Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley, a move that would draw widespread condemnation by nations that consider Israeli settlements illegal under international law.

The bill submitted by Danny Danon – Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations and a member of the Likud party – would represent the first time Israel has moved to extend its laws over parts of Judea and Samaria since the Six-Day War in 1967.

“All aspects of the sovereignty of the State of Israel will apply to all areas of Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, including the industrial areas that serve them, the archaeological sites in the area and the access roads to these areas,” the bill reads.

The proposed area for annexation accounts for approximately 30% of the West Bank.

Annexation is a controversial issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Benjamin Netanyahu went back on his vow to annex the West Bank in 2020 during his previous term as prime minister since it nearly scuttled the Abraham Accords peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates. At the time, the UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef al-Otaiba wrote an editorial which appeared in Hebrew in Israel’s daily paper, Yediot Ahronot, saying annexation would be a serious setback to peace.

“Annexation will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with UAE,” he wrote. 

“These are the carrots – the incentives, the upsides – for Israel. Greater security. Direct links. Expanded markets. Growing acceptance. This is what normal could be,” Otaiba continued, explaining the advantages of normalization between Israel and the Arab world. “Normal is not annexation. Instead, annexation is a misguided provocation of another order. And continued talk of normalization would be just mistaken hope for better relations with the Arab states.”

However, now it appears momentum is building in the Knesset to forward such a bill, at least for a portion of the West Bank. Danon expects that some opposition members in the current Knesset will also support his legislation.

“The annexation of the Jordan Valley is a significant issue for Israel from an historical, economical as well as crucially, from a security perspective. We know that there is support for the application of Israel’s sovereignty of the Jordan Valley, both in the government’s coalition as well as in the opposition,” Danon said. “There is no better time to apply sovereignty and we must join forces to do so imminently.”

Currently, Israeli communities in the West Bank are under military law since Israel never officially annexed the area after gaining the territory in the 1967 war. Israeli communities dot the landscape among Palestinian communities throughout Judea and Samaria. The Knesset votes regularly to extend national law to apply to Israeli citizens living there so they can be eligible for federal services such as voting, insurance and social security.

“To this day, Israeli law does not apply to the residents of the Jordan Valley and they are therefore discriminated against as citizens. This creates difficulty and complexity in various areas of life. This can be corrected by broad public support among Israeli citizens demanding the application of Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley,” the legislation explains.

Danon’s legislation focuses on the 30 Israeli settlements and kibbutzim in the Jordan Valley on the border with Kingdom of Jordan, stretching south to the Dead Sea and north along the Jordan River.

The draft bill, of which ALL ISRAEL NEWS obtained a copy, points out the Jewish and biblical history “engraved in its soil.”

“The territory is divided between the estates of the tribes of Judah, Gad, Reuben, Manasseh and Benjamin and through the plain where the Bible relays that Joshua ben Nun brought the Jewish people into the land of Israel,” the legislation reads. “The State of Israel is not an ‘occupier’ of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley. Even in modern times, Jews lived in the Valley. In 1939 Kibbutz Beit Arava was established, whose new incarnation today is situated in the Dead Sea Scrolls Regional Council. In Israel’s War of Liberation, the kibbutz fell to the Jordanians and was liberated again in the Six-Day War.”

In his draft bill, Danon notes that a majority of Jordan Valley residents are farmers and export a significant amount of products.

“The export rate is about 66%, and it is among the highest in the country,” the bill says. “The farmers of the Jordan Valley have gone through a modernization and professionalization process in recent years, increasing and improving plots of land through diversification.”

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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