The Jordan Valley, the American Withdrawal from Syria, and the Future of Israeli Security

Oct. 23 2019

President Trump’s precipitous removal of U.S. protection from the Syrian Kurds, writes Dore Gold, is a cautionary reminder of the most fundamental principle of the Jewish state’s national-security doctrine: “that Israel must be able to defend itself by itself and not accept external guarantees, even from the United States, in lieu of its own self-defense capabilities.” With this in mind, Gold revisits the controversy surrounding Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement last month that, if reelected, he would extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley. Gold goes back in history several decades to explain why Jerusalem must maintain a military presence in this area:

Alone, [the kingdom of] Jordan did not constitute an existential threat to Israel. . . . Israel’s eastern challenge historically has come from other states that exploited Jordan as a platform from which to attack Israel. Thus, in 1948 and 1967, an Iraqi expeditionary force, made up of one third of Iraq’s ground order of battle, crossed Jordan to attack Israel. Today, there are still multiple sources of instability to Israel’s east. For example, Iran projects its military power across the region through fully equipped Shiite militias which it has used successfully to defeat conventional armies in Syria and Iraq.

What the Jordan Valley gave Israel was not strategic depth, but rather strategic height. . . . When taken together, the lowest parts of the Jordan Valley and [the nearby] mountain ridge form a virtual strategic wall with a net height of 4,500 feet. This steep barrier provided a daunting challenge to [an enemy’s] armored and mechanized units.

The importance of the Jordan Valley was first recognized, Gold writes, by the celebrated Israeli general Yigal Allon, who in 1967 was deputy prime minister:

Allon . . . explained that any territory from which Israel would withdraw in the West Bank would have to be demilitarized. The question he posed was how demilitarization would be ensured. There was an arid zone, which included the Judean Desert, to the east of where the bulk of the Palestinian population lived. Allon estimated that this security zone was about 700 square miles. . . . That line would safeguard the demilitarization regime that he had in mind.

Why such a line was absolutely essential was demonstrated in 2005, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon implemented his unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip. . . . Critics of the plan . . . stressed that Israel should at least retain the border zone between the Gaza Strip and Egyptian Sinai, known in Israeli parlance as the Philadelphi Route. [But it did not retain that zone.] What clearly happened in the aftermath of the Israeli pullout was a massive increase in weapons smuggling by Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. This directly influenced the rate of rocket fire on Israel.

Read more at American Interest

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Gaza withdrawal, Israeli history, Israeli Security, Jordan Valley, U.S. Foreign policy


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy