The American peace team, headed by US special Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz, will begin meeting with senior Israeli officials on Sunday to examine Israel’s sovereignty initiative in parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley.
Berkowitz, who arrived in Israel on Friday, together with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and other senior administration officials, will continue the discussions held last week at the White House. In the wake of those deliberations, it appeared the Trump administration was leaning toward allowing Israel to pursue its sovereignty bid, as promised by President Donald Trump within the framework of the peace plan he unveiled some six months ago.
Due to the sensitivity of the sovereignty issue and its ramifications, a decision is still forthcoming on the scope of the sovereignty bid and the names of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria the final plan will include. On both the American and Israeli sides, officials are exploring various roadmaps, including fully implementing sovereignty in 30% of the territory, in one or perhaps multiple phases. There are also questions surrounding the Jordan Valley, which on one hand enjoys Israeli consensus in terms of sovereignty, but could damage relations with Jordan. Another proposal being discussed is applying sovereignty in the more remote Jewish outposts, while others believe Israel should first apply sovereignty in the large settlement blocs, over which there is a national consensus.
In the meantime, the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security of America issued a position statement over the weekend calling for Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley.
JINSA researchers believe that despite the short-term tensions likely to arise from Israel’s sovereignty bid, in the long-term Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley will bolster US national security.
“The [Jordan] Valley’s depth creates a formidable barrier and provides a far more defensible and natural boundary than the so-called Green Line, or pre-1967 line,” said the authors of a recent report titled “Best Line of Defense: The Case for Israeli Sovereignty in the Jordan Valley.”
Israeli sovereignty will also serve to protect Jordan and the Palestinian Authority from the real possibility of a Hamas coup in Judea and Samaria, similar to the situation in Gaza.
JINSA President and CEO Michael Makovsky told Israel Hayom that he understands Jordan’s concerns about Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley but insists an opportunity has emerged that must be capitalized on, and that it benefits Jordan as well.
“It’s important for Jordan that Israel receive permanent control of the Jordan Valley because control and sovereignty give a country’s security forces freedom of action. The status quo can also change for the worse from Jordan’s perspective, if a plan is adopted – which almost happened – that includes an Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley and reliance on technological tools [to maintain security]. Hence if you think in the long term, it’s also good for Jordan that Israel receives sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. Because it’s impossible to know whether another American administration will ever agree to such a move, the current opportunity must be exploited,” Makovsky said.
By Ariel Kahana
Originally published in Israel Hayom