Despite Hague Warnings, Israeli Panel to Discuss Annexing the Jordan Valley

Sources tell Haaretz that reviewing the issue is meant to show that Israel has not abandoned the idea due to international pressure

Noa Landau
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares his intention to annex the Jordan Valley, September 2019.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares his intention to annex the Jordan Valley, September 2019. Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Noa Landau

An Israeli committee will convene Sunday to discuss the annexation of the Jordan Valley despite a warning by the International Criminal Court's prosecutor.

The panel is convening despite a warning by the International Criminal Court's prosecutor that declarations on extending Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank could be used in an investigation into Israeli officials, if one were to open.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has conceded in the past that a transition government would have difficulties promoting the move.

Sources familiar with the establishment of the inter-ministerial committee told Haaretz that the insistence on moving forward with the discussions are mainly to show that the idea has not been abandoned due to international pressure.

The committee, the sources say, convened for the first time since its establishment, will discuss preparations ahead of submitting an official proposal to annex the Jordan Valley when it’s feasibly legal.

ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.
ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.Credit: Eva Plevier/Reuters

Members of the committee are expected to craft an official annexation proposal to the government or the Knesset. The committee is headed by the Prime Minister’s Office Director General Ronen Peretz and its members include representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces and the National Security Council.

Speaking in a press conference a week before the general election in September, Netanyahu said that if he would be reelected, he would work to “apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea.” However, Netanyahu added that he would begin the process of annexation only after the election, in coordination with the Trump administration. “In recent weeks I have led a diplomatic effort in this direction and conditions are ripe for it,” he said.

Several days before the April 9 election, Netanyahu pledged to work toward the annexation of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in the West Bank, without distinguishing between settlement blocs and isolated communities. Netanyahu is now reiterating this message and has even expanded on it, saying he wants the government to “annex large parts of Judea and Samaria."

Last month, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda expressed concern over Israeli proposals to annex the Jordan Valley. The prosecutor has followed "with concern proposals advanced during the recent electoral process, to be tabled to the Knesset, for Israel to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank," it said in its 2019 report.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and world leaders have  repeatedly warned Netanyahu and the government that annexing the Jordan Valley could lead to an international criminal investigation.

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