Ministers Support Bill Annexing Jordan Valley Settlements to Israel

Bill would extend Israeli legal, administrative systems to West Bank settlements and lift restrictions on construction.

A bill to annex the Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley to Israel and apply Israeli law to them, was passed Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, 8:3.

However, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnuah) and Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry (Yesh Atid), both of whom opposed the bill, said they would appeal the decision and demand a revote.

The bill was also opposed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid). Voting in support were ministers from the Likud, Habayit Hayehudi, and Yisrael Beiteinu.

Meanwhile, the yea vote means that the bill, sponsored by Likud MK Miri Regev, will go to the plenum with government backing.

Under the bill, the State of Israel’s legal and administrative system would apply to the settlements in the Jordan Valley and the roads leading to them. No restrictions will apply to construction in the area unless specifically approved by the Knesset.

Regev said she submitted the bill “solely for diplomatic and security reasons, since the communities and lands of the Jordan Valley constitute the strategic defense line of the State of Israel on its long eastern border.”

Livni condemned the ministers for supporting the bill and wondered why, on issues of far less importance, they insisted on a lengthy debate. The vote in this case had been taken “in haste,” she said.

“This is an irresponsible and populist bill that seeks to tie the hands of the government and the prime minister” as it pursues peace talks with the Palestinians, Livni said. “Its price will be harm to the State of Israel and isolation in the world.”

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, however, countered: “During the period of the disengagement [from Gaza] the prime minister and the defense minister promised that security would be assured by leaving military forces along the Philadelphi Corridor, but in the end that didn’t happen. A military presence is not sufficient to provide security.”

Sa’ar added: “There is a public consensus that the Jordan Valley will remain Israeli. It’s not so terrible for the world to also know that the Jordan Valley will remain Israeli under any permanent arrangement.”

Meretz chairman MK Zehava Galon responded to the vote by saying that “de facto annexation of the Jordan Valley not only contravenes international law, it’s an unnecessary provocation when the American administration is trying to advance a diplomatic agreement. In an era in which the future threat from the east comes from high-trajectory weapons, even security experts understand that the valley no longer serves as a security barrier. Therefore, the initiative to apply Israeli law in the Jordan Valley is a purely political initiative and not a strategic-security one.”

The Likud ministers know very well that the bill will never pass the Knesset, a political source said on Sunday. “So they can allow themselves to flex their muscles for a while and speak about the importance of settlement in the valley. They also knew that Livni and Lapid would appeal, so today’s vote was irrelevant.”

Dr. Saeb Erekat, Member of the PLO's Executive Committee said the bill is yet further evidece of Israel's disinterest in a two-state solution. "Netanyahu’s government continues to destroy international peacemaking efforts by turning its occupation into an annexation," he said in a statement to the press. "Denying Palestine of its only international border with Jordan is a clear step towards a permanent Apartheid regime consisting of one state with two segregated systems.”

“The international community must hold Israel accountable for this latest step. This government of settlers, for the settlers and by the settlers is succeeding in destroying the chances of a negotiated two-state solution. We reiterate our call upon the international community to ban all settlement products, and to cut all possible ties with the Israeli occupation, including the organizations supporting it. We call upon the countries who have not yet recognized the State of Palestine on the 1967 border to do so. Palestine is currently evaluating its next steps, including recourse through legal and diplomatic venues such as the International Criminal Court and other international forums.”

Tomer Appelbaum