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Jordan valley - a disaster is quietly in the making


The popularity of the Kadima party seems to rest primarily on its ability to keep everyone in the dark about its plans for the future. The situation vis-a-vis the Palestinians is so bad, that any solution that is proposed could probably be shown to be dangerous or unworkable and antagonize a large section of the voters. The Labor party favors a negotiated solution along the lines of the Geneva accord, clearly anathema to a large section of Israeli voters. Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, made it clear at the Herzliya conference that the Likud intends to keep the Jordan Valley settlements and to make the Jordan river the border of Israel in any settlement. Most Israeli voters might like that, but most Israeli voters, if they would reflect, could also understand that there is a problem with that idea: the rest of the world would not agree.

Kadima and Ehud Olmert decided to be silent and perhaps be thought fools, rather than speaking out and confirming it. Kadima's winning formula is that they intend to set the permanent borders of Israel, presumably following a further disengagement of unknown extent. They neglect to explain either how they would go about doing that without negotiations, why anyone might agree to accept those borders, or what the borders might be. The Israeli electorate has been notably uncurious on this point. Everyone seems to agree that "the less said the better."

There is now, however, some ominous evidence concerning the nature of the "permanent" borders or the temporarily permanent borders that Olmert wants to set. It seems that Olmert has the same policy plans as Netanyahu and the Likud, and has had them all along. The 'vital' difference between them is that Olmert and the Kadima party understand that it is unwise to talk about those plans.

The Israeli government has been quietly busy establishing facts on the ground, separating the Jordan Valley from the rest of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank. This has been going on for years, and Olmert and Kadima will continue this policy, which has now culminated in forbidding the entry of Palestinians into the Jordan Valley. Amira Hass explains:

The explicit prohibition regarding entry to the Valley by all Palestinians except a small minority is relatively new. It has taken shape slowly in the course of the past five years. It has involved not a single order published by the media, but rather a series of cumulative prohibitions, now at this roadblock, later at another and another and yet another. The constraints on Palestinian farmers' freedom to market their produce directly and to nearby Israeli dealers are also new, dating from October-November 2005. Both types of prohibition constitute but the most recent manifestations of the policy practiced by Israel even during the Oslo years--what were ostensibly the peace negotiation years.

Along with the above measures, Israeli forces have also been busy evicting Bedouin and other temporary Palestinian residents, because, as Amira Hass quotes a soldier, "The valley is Israel." The Jordan valley is a big chunk of land running north-south in the middle of the West Bank, mostly uninhabitable desert. It is settled by about 7,000 Israelis, mostly identified with the Labor movement rather than with Greater Israel ideology. Unlike Hebron, or Tapuah or many other settlements, the Jordan Valley settlements were supposedly created for strategic and security reasons only.

It becomes clear that the "permanent borders of Israel" according to Olmert and Kadima, as according to the Likud, would include at least 40% of the West Bank, and would make it difficult to imagine any sort of viable Palestinian national life. True, the areas are desert, but they are also the only available territories the Palestinians could have. It is hard to imagine any Palestinian leadership being able, even if they so desired, to convince the Palestinian public and especially Hamas and other extremist groups to disband and go about their business while Israel keeps a third of the land in the heart of the West Bank.

This astounding plan, to maintain the Jordan Valley as "Israel," has evoked very little outcry from Israeli peace advocates. Dovish Yossi Alpher went about as far as anyone, and that wasn't very far. His ingenious argument explains that Israel is keeping the Jordan valley out of altruistic concern for our Hashemite neighbors:

... Whether or not we revert to that era, Israel has a right to be concerned: Hashemite Jordan shares with it two vital local and regional strategic security interests that have been negatively affected by the Hamas victory and recent developments to Jordan's east: containing the Palestinians in a non-threatening political entity, and keeping radical state and Islamist threats as far away as possible. Hence, in the Hamas era, any additional unilateral Israeli dismantling of settlements and/or withdrawal on the West Bank is not likely to include the sparsely-populated Jordan Valley. Nor can Israel now afford to consider turning the Allenby Bridge crossing over to bilateral Palestinian-Jordanian control, along the lines of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Sinai. Already Egyptian security officials are evincing concern that Hamas is exploiting its relatively free entry at Rafah into Sinai to collude with Egyptian Islamists.

Yet even as Israel reevaluates yet again the strategic significance of the Jordan Valley, it must not lose sight of the importance of that area, fully one-third of the West Bank, for the future viability of a Palestinian state. In the long term, Israel does not need the Jordan Valley settlements any more than it needs those in the mountain heartland; indeed, after more than 35 years of Israeli settlement in the harsh conditions of the Jordan Valley, there are no more than 7,000 settlers living and farming there, and their farming communities are still not profitable. On the other hand, a Palestinian state cannot be viable unless it includes all or most of the Valley. Israel's original post-Oslo vision of a long-term residual Israeli security presence in the Valley coupled with limited Palestinian sovereignty is still valid.

But as we enter the Hamas era, that vision must be put on hold. Heavier strategic security considerations prevail.

Alpher confounds unrelated issues. Assuming that Israel must maintain control of the Jordan bridges, why does that justify keeping Palestinians out of the Jordan valley? How are the Jordan Valley settlements going to protect the Jordanian monarchy, which is on the other side of the Jordan River? Jordan Valley settlements have about as much relation to Jordan monarchy as does Michael Jordan or Jordan almonds. If as Alpher explains, the new policy is inspired by the fact that Israel cannot return the Jordan Valley while the Hamas is in power, we must believe that Israeli policy is guided by divinely inspired prophets, who already knew several years ago that the Hamas would be coming to power. How, in any case, can we account for the idea that a few thousand Palestinians moving in and out of the Jordan Valley constitute a security threat, or pose a challenge to Israeli control of the bridges over the Jordan?

It is one thing to say that Israel cannot make concessions while Hamas is in power. It is a quite different thing to say that Israel must deepen its hold on the Jordan valley, and to note that this policy began long before there was any hint that the Hamas would come to power. If one day the Hamas is not in power, what will become of this investment? Does anyone think it can become "facts on the ground" that need to be recognized, and that Israel would be allowed to keep it?

Whatever the Palestinians did in the Jordan Valley before, nobody claimed it was a security threat. There are no Qassam factories there and no Islamic Jihad suicide squad cells. Will anyone believe that the few Bedouin in the Jordan Valley are going to foment a revolution against our Hashemite allies, or perhaps invite Iranian President Ahmedinejad to station Iranian solders there? If Ahmedinejad does decide to send half a million Holocaust-denying Jihadists to the Jordan Valley, will they be stopped by a few thousand settlers?

We have heard for nearly forty years of the significance of the Jordan Valley for Israeli security or Jordanian security. Not an iota of proof has ever been offered in support of this doctrine. Nobody really re-evaluated this idea, which really first evolved in the days when the IDF was the Haganah and had maybe four machine guns and three Spitfires. The Alon plan of 1967 represented 1948-style strategic thought, even following a war that had been decided largely by air-power. The Jordan Valley wasn't even of much strategic significance in 1948. It was of no strategic significance in 1967 or in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It is not a breeding ground for terrorists either. Even terrorists can't grow there.

The majority of the population of Jordan is Palestinian, and Jordan has more or less open borders with several neighboring Arab countries including chaotic Iraq. Why then would Palestinians wanting to overthrow the Hashemites need to depend on a few thousand Bedouin who might live in the Jordan Valley, and why would they insist on bringing the necessities of overthrowal over the Allenby Bridges? Aren't the soldiers of the legendary Jordanian Legion perfectly capable of guarding the safety of the realm against this dire threat, without the help of the settlers of the Jordan Valley? What would these settlers do to save the Hashemite dynasty in any case?

Someone somewhere has quietly made a decision to commit Israel to holding on to the Jordan Valley and developing it, and Israelis have begun to supply excuses for why it has to be done. We have already seen this movie once. The 7,000 settlers will draw huge investments in resources to attract more settlers, to "thicken" the settlements and to compensate them for the harsh conditions. The Palestinian "militants" or "terrorists" or "resistance" will make these settlements a favored target. IDF will find itself committing two or three soldiers to guard each settler, and tying down the better part of two or three divisions as in Gaza. The strategists will discover that it is even harder to provide security for these isolated settlements, spread out across the desert, then it was to provide security for Gush Katif. The huge investment of national resources will yield international ill will, boycott and divestment initiatives and more cries of "apartheid." It will create another security albatross. More and more security resources will be diverted to provide security for this supposed security asset. The end will be as in Gaza.

The policy of keeping and developing the Jordan Valley, like the Gaza fiasco in its time, has broad national support in Israel at present. Politically, it is a disaster to oppose this policy. "Everyone" will explain that we need the Jordan Valley for "security reasons" but nobody can explain why.

Israel should have learned in Gaza that settlements do not bring security and that the era of "facts on the ground" was over a long time ago. A sovereign state cannot act in the same way as a tiny community struggling under the British mandate, and it doesn't have to. Unfortunately, the settlers in the Jordan Valley belong to the Labor Party. The Labor party won't jeopardize the farms and land of "our people" and the Likud and Kadima aren't going to be against annexing real estate in the West Bank.

Like the election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories, this is an example of Middle East style democracy at work. The Palestinians apparently thought they had a choice between sharing the land with the Jews or kicking all the Jews into the sea and taking all the land. Naturally, most preferred to take all the land and voted for Hamas. They don't hate the Jews, you see. They just want the land. They need the land because it is a holy waqf given to the Muslims, as the Hamas claim. After all, any land can be shown to be a holy Muslim waqf if an Imam or two say it is. Herzliya Pituach was certainly granted by Allah to Muhamed.

It didn't occur to the Palestinians, it seems, that the Jews might object to being thrown into the sea, and would not consent to fund a government that professed such policies, nor did they seem to think that the international community might object. Not funding the Hamas, as anyone can understand, would cause the Palestinians to suffer, and that is wrong. Never mind that funding the Hamas would cause the Jews to suffer, especially those of us who don't swim so well.

On our side of the border, we have an almost mirror image of this sort of thinking. Israelis seem to think we have a choice between sharing the land and keepng most of it for ourselves for "security" reasons. We have only to ask our American and European friends, and they will give us permanent borders at the Jordan river. In our imagination, we traded Gaza for most of the West Bank. What a great idea! I wonder why nobody thought of this simple, yet elegant, solution before? That is what Kadima is selling, and it seems that many Israelis are buying it. The rise of the Hamas has a role here too, since the Hamas can be used as a bogeyman to justify holding on to as much territory as possible. After all, any territory can be shown to have strategic importance, if a general or a pundit says it has strategic importance. It doesn't seem to occur to Israelis that Palestinians might raise objections to this reasoning, or that the international community might possibly be skeptical that the 7,000 settlers of the Jordan value are the bulwark of the Hashemite monarchy. We need the land for our security, and never mind the security of the Palestinians.

Ami Isseroff

Copyright 2006 by MidEastWeb for Coexistence and the author. Published first at http://www.mideastweb.org/log MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log. May be circulated by email with this notice.

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000432.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Moderator @ 02:55 PM CST [Link]


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Replies: 4 comments

"Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, made it clear at the Herzliya conference that the Likud intends to keep the Jordan Valley settlements and to make the Jordan river the border of Israel in any settlement. Most Israeli voters might like that, but most Israeli voters, if they would reflect, could also understand that there is a problem with that idea: the rest of the world would not agree."

Please inform why the hell should we worry about the rest of the world? Did it by any chance ever worry about us Jews and Israel? Even that retarded French ambassador to England - David Bernard - commented about "...that shitty little country, Israel..."!

So, once again, the hell with the rest of the world!

Posted by SLevy @ 02/23/2006 08:54 PM CST

Allow me another comment:

In all the World History Books and Lessons I have had, I never heard or saw of any country winning a war, - let alone several ones such as Israel did against impossible odds - be obliged to "...give back territory to the losing side..."!!!!

This isn¬īt even a matter of "...giving back anything..." this is a matter of GIVING AWAY OUR LAND, OUR TERRITORY, OUR INHERITANCE!

None of the arab, moslem-ruled, countries want even to hear or touch on the "palestinians"... so what rights do these so-called palestinians have on anything of ours? The only thing they rabidly want is to destroy us!

Posted by SLevy @ 02/23/2006 09:08 PM CST

I think that all of Israel belongs to Israel that the Palestinians need to move to Jordan where they are the majority population anyway. The surounding Arab countries have more land that can be developed for the palestinians and can absorb them into there countries. All this really is the Arabs don't really want the land of Israel but they don't want anybody else to have it either. Let alone let the Jews live in Peace.

Posted by Max Baca @ 02/26/2006 06:51 AM CST

Replies to comments:
Slevy wrote:
'Please inform why the hell should we worry about the rest of the world?'
Only crazy people can ignore other people and only crazy countries and crazy regimes can ignore world opinion. Even the mighty USA has to take cognizance of world opinion. Israel is totally dependent on the USA and the "rest of the world" for many things. We should worry about the rest of the world because the rest of the world must supply us with gas and oil and other things that we don't have, and we want the rest of the world to buy our software and oranges and diamonds and so on. The rest of the world can be pretty nasty if they have a mind to do so.

Max Baca wrote:
" I think that all of Israel belongs to Israel"
And the Hamas think that all of Palestine belongs to the Muslims - it is a holy Waqf from Allah vouchsafed to the Muslims according to them. The problem is that Palestine according to Hamas and Israel according to you coincide exactly on the map. As the song in Hebrew says "Eyfo Eyfo Eyfo, Eretz Yisrael?" "Where oh where oh where is the Land of Israel?"

Blowing off steam in a comment on a blog is fun but it can't be the basis for foreign policy. Only people like Ahmedinejad and Saddam Hussein think they can tell the world where to go. Saddam is getting his comeuppance, and Ahmedinejad's turn will come. Israel doesn't want to be on that line, and neither should the Palestinians. If the Hamas tries to tell the world where to go, they will eventually join Saddam and the other unfortunates of history - that is a problem for the Palestinians.


Posted by Moderator @ 03/04/2006 08:38 PM CST

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