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

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

 

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy