Why the Jordan Valley Is Crucial to Israel’s Security

A few weeks ago, Benjamin Netanyahu made a pre-election promise about the Jordan Valley, obtained by Israel during the Six-Day War. His statement, misreported as an intention to annex the territory—instead he spoke of applying Israeli sovereignty to parts of it—raised a predictable hue and cry. But, notes Gershon Hacohen, the statement was perfectly in keeping with the thinking of Israeli leaders from Levi Eshkol to Yitzḥak Rabin, and is rooted in the Jewish state’s strategic needs. Hacohen explains the flaws in the thinking that in 2000 led then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak to deviate from this position:

After the peace treaty with Jordan in 1994, and especially after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s army in the Iraq war (2003), it has been increasingly argued that the threat of an eastern front has passed and controlling the Jordan Valley is no longer crucial to Israel’s security. Even [in 1994], this argument was divorced from a basic understanding of the phenomenon of war.

Since that time, in light of the lessons of the [second intifada], the “Arab Spring,” Hizballah’s enormous missile arsenal, and the strengthening of . . . Hamas, as well as Tehran’s growing expansionism—which [could give Iran the potential to] deploy Shiite militias in a new front along Israel’s main [north-south] artery (Highway 6)—the Jordan Valley’s status as a vital Israeli security interest has only increased.

Most [Israeli] advocates of a Palestinian state say it will be demilitarized and unable to threaten Israel’s security. During the Oslo years, the PLO feigned acceptance of demilitarization and signed a number of agreements to this specific effect, only to violate them flagrantly as the West Bank and Gaza were transformed into hothouses of terror. The failure of the UN forces in Lebanon . . . to prevent Hizballah from arming itself in the south of that country shows why proposals to deploy international forces in a similar role in the Jordan Valley cannot guarantee a true demilitarization. Thus the Jordan Valley, as a buffer zone controlled by the IDF, is an existential necessity when it comes to Israel’s security.

In addition to the security issue, the Jordan Valley in its full geographical scope can house millions of Israelis and provide a location for national infrastructure that cannot be compressed into the coastal plain. . . . In an era of peace, a developed infrastructure of roads [there] could once again turn the Land of Israel into a vital land bridge between Asia and Africa.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Ehud Barak, Israeli Security, Jordan Valley, Yitzhak Rabin

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem