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Jordan Rift Valley

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised 10 September 2019 to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank if he wins next week's general election, drawing sharp criticism from Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia. "Today, I announce my intention, after the establishment of a new government, to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea," Netanyahu said in a speech broadcast live on Israeli TV. That step, he said, could be taken "immediately after the election if I receive a clear mandate to do so from you, the citizens of Israel".

Netanyahu made similar promises in the past, including one in April 2019, and there was scepticism from the Israeli media. This project is not exclusive to Netanyahu. All across the Israeli political spectrum, from Labor to the right-wing Likud party, Israelis have favored the annexation of the West Bank. Israel has long said it intends to maintain military control there under any peace agreement with the Palestinians. It captured the West Bank in a 1967 war. Some 650,000 Israeli Jews currently live in more than 100 settlements built since 1967. International law views both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as "occupied territories" and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there as illegal.

The Israeli army has consolidated its control over the West Bank in the Eastern segregation zone (1,555 km2, or 27.5 per cent of the West Bank). The Eastern Segregation Zone without walls or fences is maintained through control of 28 military checkpoints. Since 2002, Israel has been implementing its unilateral segregation plan. When complete, the plan isolated 576 km2 of Palestinian land in the West Bank (approximately 10% of the total area) in the Western Segregation Zone between the wall and the Green Line. Israel also maintains an Eastern Segregation Zone by erecting several checkpoints and roadblocks.

The Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea constitute almost 30 percent of the West Bank. Some 65,000 Palestinians and about 11,000 illegal Israeli settlers live in the area - most of which is under Israeli military control in what is referred to as Area C. The 2,400-square kilometre Jordan Valley, which Palestinians seek for the eastern perimeter of a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, stretches from the Dead Sea in the south to the Israeli city of Beit Shean in the north.

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The Jordan Rift Valley (JRV) is an element of a great rift which extends from Syria to the Red Sea and continues through a large portion of Eastern Africa. Riparian population groups in the JRV include Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians. At its southern extremity, the JRV connects with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The JRV has traditionally been a North-South transport corridor, and is crossed by important land routes in the East-West direction.

The way from Tel -Aviv on Israel's coast to Amman, Jordan's capital, first climbs up the Judean Mountains all the way to the Ramallah-Beit El region north of Jerusalem at 760 meters above sea level, then drops steeply towards the Dead Sea at 427 meters below sea level, only to start climbing again towards the hilly area of Amman.

The Jordan Valley is part of the much larger Great Rift Valley which runs for some 275 km from the Sea of Galilee in the north to Eilat, the southernmost point in Israel. The valley marks the border between Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) to the west. The area forms a natural barrier that throughout history made invasions from the east difficult. Today it is an essential strategic asset which safeguards Israel against the infiltration of terrorists and the smuggling of weapons into the West Bank. Despite difficult climatic conditions - the Jordan Valley is extremely arid - it has been populated for thousands of years. On both sides of the Jordan River the land is cultivated by Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians alike, while around the Dead Sea there is a developed infrastructure of health tourism and industrial mining for salt and minerals.

Jordan River crossing point (Sheikh Hussein) between Israel and Jordan is intended for Israeli citizens and for foreigners. The crossing point is open seven days a week 06:30-22:30. Border control services are provided during all the hours of the crossing point's activity. Allenby Bridge crossing point between Israel and Jordan is intended for the Palestinian population, residents of the eastern part of Jerusalem, and foreigners. The crossing point is open Sunday-Thursday 07:30-24:00, Friday 07:30-15:00, and Saturday 07:30-15:00. Border control services are provided during the hours of the crossing point's activity. During Moslem holidays and for those who are traveling to Mecca the crossing point is open 24 hours a day.

In a major policy statement, on the eve of the opening of events marking Israels 50th anniversary, on 09 November 1997 Prime Minister Netanyahu stated : "This nation will not concede on the Jordan Valley as its strategic border. This nation will not give up on control of airspace and water sources. This nation will not allow an army equipped with heavy weaponry to arise between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea."

Netanyahu on 8 March 2011, in the Jordan Valley, stated: "Our security border is here, on the Jordan River, and our line of defense is here. If this line were to be broken, this would mean that it would be possible to bring in terrorists, missiles and rockets, and infiltrate them into Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Be'er Sheva and throughout the country. Our line of defense starts here and it has no alternative. There is no alternative to the IDF's line of defense. Therefore, in any future situation, and I say in any future arrangement as well, the IDF must stay here, i.e. along the Jordan River. This is the State of Israel's insurance policy. If this was true before the major unrest now shaking the Middle East and the entire region, it is doubly true today. The IDF must remain along the Jordan River."

Netanyahu on 19 October 2017), at a ceremony to mark 50 years of settlement in the Jordan Valley, said: "Our eastern line of defense starts here in this place and if we were not here, Teheran and Hamastan would be; we will not allow this to happen. We see what is happening a short distance north of here when they take up a position, or try to, over the border. We have a clear policy: Whoever tries to hurt us, we will hurt them. We will not tolerate trickles and if they attack us, we return fire, and this does not take a lot of time."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US National Security Adviser John Bolton, Sunday, 23 June 2019, toured the Jordan Valley, including the Givonit overlook and Qasr al-Yahud. Prime Minister Netanyahu, at the Givonit overlook [English], said: "Iím very pleased to have the national security advisor of the United States, John Bolton, and the ambassador of the United States to Israel, David Friedman, join me on this tour of the Jordan Valley. John, as you can see, the Jordan Valley offers Israel the minimal strategic depth and strategic height for the defense of our country. Our presence here also guarantees stability and security for the entire region. For those who say that for peace to be established Israel has to leave the Jordan Valley, Iíll say thatís not going to bring peace, thatís going to bring war and terror. Weíve been there and we donít want to be there again. Under any peace agreement, our position will be that Israelís presence should continue here for Israelís security and for the security of all."

US National Security Adviser Bolton said: "Iíll just say that without security there is no peace, there is no long-lasting peace. And I just think itís too bad, Prime Minister, that more Americans canít come to locations like this, see the geography, understand its significance, understand how it affects Israelís critical security position, and explain why Israel has taken the view that it has. I can assure you that President Trump will take the concerns that you have voiced so clearly over the years very much into account as we go forward on this."

Israel's intention to annex the Jordan Valley is illegal and threatens chances for a meaningful two-State solution with the Palestinians, a UN independent human rights expert Michael Lynk said 12 September 2019. Annexation was outlawed by the international community in 1945 with the adoption of the UN Charter, according to the independent UN expert's statement. "To assert the right to annex in the 21st century is to attempt to re-enter a world that no longer exists," said Mr. Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.

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Page last modified: 15-09-2019 14:42:05 ZULU