Israel's Annexation Plan of the Jordan Valley

European thinking, Abdullah’s reaction, and Israel’s rights.

The new Israeli government is considering extending Israeli law and sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, which is within area C of the Oslo Accords. The Accords, which gave Israel both military and administrative control in the area, also contains a large bloc of Jewish-Israeli communities. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a short visit to Israel (April 22, 2020) told reporters: “As for annexation of the (Jordan Valley) West Bank, the Israelis will ultimately make those decisions.” He added, “That’s an Israeli decision. We will work closely with them to share with them our views in a private setting.”

Reacting to Israeli intentions, a senior official at the European Union (EU) has warned that Individual member-states within the EU are already looking to apply sanction against Israel should Israel annex the Jordan Valley. The EU requires full consensus among its 27 members in adopting foreign policy measures. Austria and Hungary have blocked a call by Luxembourg and Ireland to consider an Israel annexation of the Jordan Valley a ‘violation of international law’ as defined by the United Nations (UN). The anti-Israel bloc at the EU believes that Israel’s intended action is comparable to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. But, while Crimea was part of the sovereign nation state of Ukraine, Palestine is not a recognized state by the UN. Still, there might be bilateral sanctions imposed by anti-Israel states within the EU such as Ireland, Luxembourg, and Sweden. 

While the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas understands that there is no comparison between Russia’s action in 2014 in annexing Crimea, and Israel’s intended annexation of the Jordan Valley Jewish settlements, he nevertheless agrees that it will be a violation of international law. 

The German magazine Der Spiegel interviewed (5/15/2020) King Abdullah II of Jordan (pictured above). Der Spiegel asked, “Politicians like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu want to take advantage of the opportunity presented by Trump and annex large parts of the Palestinian territories?” The nature of the question reveals a clear anti-Israel, and anti-American bias by this German publication. In fact, UN Resolutions 242 and 338 considered the territories of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) to be “Disputed Territories” not “Palestinian Territories.”

Abdullah replied, “Leaders who advocate a one-state solution do not understand what that would mean.  What would happen if the Palestinian National Authority collapsed? There would be more chaos and extremism in the region. If Israel really annexes the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”

Der Spiegel: “You would suspend the peace treaty with Israel?”

Abdullah: “I don’t want to make threats and create a loggerheads atmosphere, but we are considering all options. We agree with many countries in Europe and the international community that the law of the strongest should not apply in the Middle East.” 

Firstly, the Israeli government has not spoken of annexing the whole West Bank. The intention of the Israeli government is to extend Israeli law to Jews in the Jordan Valley. Secondly, Abdullah’s self-righteous statement about the ‘law of the strongest’ is downright hypocritical. In 1948, the Arab Legion under the direction of his namesake King Abdullah I, occupied the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) because he could. Moreover, he occupied the Jewish settlements of Gush Etzion and killed its male inhabitants because of the Law of the Strongest…

Der Spiegel: “For the rulers of the Gulf, the fight against Iran now seems more important than the Israel-Palestine conflict. Do you feel betrayed?”

Abdullah: “…At meetings of the Arab League, the proposal for a one-state solution is still vehemently rejected. When the one-state solution plan was addressed six or seven months ago, His Majesty the King of Saudi Arabia said no, we are with the Palestinian state.”

Interestingly, Abdullah didn’t answer to the question with a clear anti-Israel, or anti-Trump response. He certainly didn’t say anything about feeling betrayed. It is clear that Abdullah feels threatened by Iran far more than Israel. Moreover, Abdullah is saddled with a majority of Palestinians in his Kingdom, and thus, it is survival politics for him to defend the Palestinians and serve as their advocate. In addition, his wife is Palestinian. In his heart of hearts Abdullah prefers to have a border with Israel and not with a Palestinian state, which would likely threaten his kingdom, and instigate his Palestinian subjects against the monarchy.

Saudi based Arab News reported on May 18, 2020 that, “Jordanian and Palestinian officials are considering simultaneous action including the suspension of their respective agreements with Israel as a reaction to any annexation of lands in the occupied territories.”   

It is unlikely that King Abdullah would sever the peace treaty with Israel. Abdullah knows there would be severe consequences to such a move. The U.S. may withhold critical aid, and Israel would retaliate by cancelling Jordan’s control of Temple Mount and the holy mosques of Al-Aksa and Omar, which provide the Jordanian monarchy prestige and influence among Palestinians. In addition, Israel provides Jordan with critical intelligence, and it might be its savior should Assad forces or Iran and its Shiite militias, attempt to invade Jordan. Israel is also helping Jordan economically by allowing Jordanian subjects to work in Israel, and Israeli tourists contribute to Jordan’s economy.

In a New York Times opinion piece (September 19, 1983) Eugene Rostow, headlined his piece as follows: Israel’s Settlement Right is Unassailable.” The late Eugene Rostow was the former Dean of Yale University School of Law who served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Rostow wrote: “Israel has unassailable legal right to establish settlements in the West Bank. The West Bank is part of the British Mandate in Palestine which included Israel and Jordan as well as certain other territories not yet generally recognized as belonging to either country. While Jewish settlements east of the Jordan River was suspended in 1922, such settlements remain legal in the West Bank.”

The right of Jews to settle in the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria (West Bank), and Israel’s right to annex some parts of Judea and Samaria derive from the Mandate. Importantly, the November 1967 UN Security General Resolution 242, specifically did not call on Israel to withdraw from “all” the territories that it captured in a defensive war, which was initiated by Jordanian bombing of Jerusalem and other points in Israel, despite Israeli pleas to the Hashemite Kingdom to stay out of the 1967 war. Moreover, the UN resolution 242 considered Israel’s need for “secure boundaries.”  

For the Europeans, it is the rights of the Palestinians that count, whereas Israel’s historical rights and its legal case are inconsequential. While suggesting that an Israeli annexation would destroy future peace talks and the implementation of the two-state solution, they have ignored the fact that Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority rejected negotiations with Israel as well as the Trump peace plan outright. European attitudes could be easily discerned by the very nature of the questions the German magazine Der Spiegel posed to King Abdullah II. They are clearly poised against the Trump peace plan and his support for Israel should it go ahead with its annexation plan.

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Photo credit: Kremlin

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