When assessing Israel’s core national security interests, applying Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley fits squarely within the list of Israeli needs. Our nation, with its ancient past, must take an equally long view of its future, particularly given the many security challenges that likely await us. Israel must act to solidify its key needs in the fields of security, economy and development, and must not hesitate when doing so.
In just 50 years from now, our population is projected to exceed 20 million people. In order to thrive, and not just survive, we must have a minimally defensible eastern border, located in the Jordan Valley, and it must retain control of the eastern mountain ridge.
Yitzhak Rabin, architect of the Oslo Accords, in the eponymous “Rabin parameters,” included full Israeli security control over Jewish cities in Judea and Samaria/the West Bank, and full freedom of maneuver for Israelis along the main roads of the area, within those parameters. He did so based on the need to protect the large Israeli communities of Judea and Samaria known today as the “Settlement blocs.”
But Israel's civilian presence in Judea and Samaria extends far beyond those blocs, and retaining control over those additional areas in perpetuity is a puzzle we finally have an opportunity to solve.
The Trump peace plan, with its endorsement of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, accurately reflects the Rabin parameters. It also calls for a two-state solution and a demilitarized Palestinian state, with Israeli security control over the entire area between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea, along with a permanent presence in the Jordan Valley.
The surprising alignment between these two plans begets a moment in time not to be missed by Israel. The reasons to proceed with sovereignty go beyond the commonality of Rabin’s and Trump’s visions, however; in ways that ought to temper the panic and pessimism disseminated by those who portray Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley as a portent for catastrophe.
The Trump peace plan was coordinated with Sunni states, Israel and the U.S. administration. That coordination is the result of the Sunni view that an alliance with Israel is an existential imperative in their fight against Iran — something that is of far greater significance to them than the Palestinian-Arab cause.
Economically, the dependence of these states upon economic aid and ties to the U.S. render any frantic statements of what awaits following the application of sovereignty just that — statements. In particular, Jordan, despite its rhetoric, is unlikely to cancel its peace treaty with Israel. It is Israel and the U.S. that stabilize Jordan, not the other way around. There is no Jordanian interest in having a Palestinian military presence on their western border.
The primary, essential distinction between the Trump plan and the Rabin parameters is one that ought to be welcomed: the demand for the Palestinians to meet their responsibilities, come to the negotiating table and fashion a way forward.
Some, particularly on the Israeli left, who are concerned about the potential for a deterioration in our security situation if sovereignty is applied, endorse ideas that are counter-strategic. They advocate for short-term arrangements for an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley and in Judea and Samaria, to be assessed and reassessed in increments of 10 to 15 years.
But the question of what happens beyond that time frame will have to be revisited, regularly and often. If we wait, the opportunity to apply sovereignty may no longer enjoy the backing of the world’s only superpower.
Neither a spike in Palestinian violence nor rocket fire from Hamas, nor a rupture in Israel’s relationship with Jordan, nor a combination of all three — all of which are held up as reasons not to apply sovereignty — should deter us from advancing our vital interests.
A cursory glance at our history helps to outline the importance of pursuing such interests.
In 1948, Israel concluded the War of Independence with extended control over territory that expanded beyond the areas given to it by the United Nations partition plan, including approximately half of the Sinai Peninsula. Significant pressure, emanating from the U.S. and Russia, was applied to Israel to withdraw. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s prime minister at the time and a master strategist, was prepared to return the land captured in the Sinai, but was unwilling to do so with regard to any other area of land.
Ben-Gurion, leader of what was then a small, young and relatively weak country, stood firm in the face of pressure from the world’s superpowers, prioritizing strategy over tactics as he did so. Today’s Israel is incomparably more powerful than it was during those founding years.
The scare tactics employed to decry the virtue of applying sovereignty ought to be recognized as the hollow catcalls that they are. Such pessimistic tales of woe were employed in advance of the U.S. recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights and Washington’s relocation of its embassy to Jerusalem. Those predictions failed to materialize, however.
The region did not catch fire when these occurred. Those who thought it would, or who fear that it will if Israel applies sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, fail to realize that the region has changed beyond recognition.
The Palestinian public in Judea and Samaria, for its part, has demonstrated that it is primarily interested in its economic wellbeing. Not only has the Palestinian-Arab street shown little appetite to return to the days of the Second Intifada, if it did, Israel’s security control renders it almost impossible for a full-scale uprising to erupt.
Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley should be applied — and swiftly. The stars are finally aligned for Israel to not only affix its eastern border, but to cement a secure future for itself.