Seven days before Israel’s neck-and-neck elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled a “hail Mary” campaign promise: a proposal to annex the west bank of the Jordan Valley, a large chunk of the Palestinian territories.
“Today, I announce my intention, with the establishment of the next government, to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea,” Netanyahu said in a surprise press conference on September 10. “This will be the first step if I receive your trust.”
“This is the eastern border of the State of Israel,” he said. “This is our vital security belt. It is a defense wall that guarantees we will never return to being a country only a few kilometers.”
Israeli voters across the political spectrum dismissed the proposal as mere speculation. Hassan Muammer, a resident of the Palestinian territories, told the National Interest that he hadn’t even heard news of the latest proposal: “It's nothing new.” But the Palestinian Authority warned that Netanyahu’s action could scuttle any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
Israel captured the territories from Jordan and Egypt in a 1967 war, settling off a bloody, decades-long insurgency by the Palestinian independence movement. In the Oslo Accords of 1993, Israel allowed a semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority to govern Arab-majority cities and towns in the territories. But the Israeli military held on to Area C, a tract of rural land which has been settled by hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens.
Netanyahu’s proposal would absorb the Area C settlements in the Jordan Valley. He made it clear that the Arab-majority city of Jericho would remain under the Palestinian Authority, and “not a single Palestinian will be annexed.”
But annexing the valley to Israel would cut the Palestinian Authority off from its only land border.