In a speech on Tuesday, the Israeli prime minister sparked outrage from all the usual quarters when he declared his intention to “apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley.” As Erielle Davidson points out—and contrary to what most of the media have reported—he nowhere used the word “annexation.” Netanyahu, Davidson adds, was likely responding to the accusation made against him by his main political competitors—the center-left Blue and White party—that he had considered relinquishing control of the Jordan Valley in 2014. And there are grave reasons why this area matters:
In addition to legal arguments buttressing Israeli claims to territorial sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, there are strategic reasons Israel might seek to apply its sovereignty over the region. [The] Jordan Valley, along Israel’s eastern border, is quite literally all that stands between Israel and the remainder of the Middle East. [It] has long been central to those aware of Israeli security issues, for the region is commonly used by jihadists to infiltrate Israel’s borders and to smuggle weaponry. Some have argued that the Jordan Valley could resemble Gaza if proper vigilance isn’t exercised.
Additionally, Israeli control over the region would ensure a buffer between Israel’s enemies and its most populous regions.
[Moreover], the Jordan Valley has almost no Palestinian population, meaning that applying Israeli sovereignty would not result in the “annexation of Palestinians.” [And] while some decry Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, the Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to build illegal settlements in Area C of the West Bank in violation of the Oslo Accords, which stipulate that no construction can take place in Area C without the approval of the Israeli Civil Administration. . . . In some ways, Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley promise represents a necessary pushback against the PA’s activities in Area C.