So why did you decide on the annexation of the Jordan Valley, of all things, I asked a senior Likud official, one of the few who is privy to such resolutions? After all, it is home to a relatively small number of settlers, some of whom have no problem with resettling elsewhere, and the annexation would jeopardize the peace with Jordan. It would also be very difficult for the international community to accept, since it would amount to a death sentence for a future Palestinian state. Had you promised to annex Gush Etzion, the area of the West Bank directly south of Jerusalem, I said, continuing to express my surprise, it would be far less freighted while being no less attractive to the right.
We received indisputable intelligence that Kahol Lavan is set to announce it a few days before the March 2 election, was the Likud figure’s astonishing reply. It was supposed to be their ace in the hole and we beat them to it. I checked with Kahol Lavan and couldn’t confirm his claim. Is it possible that someone misled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to in order to box him into annexing the Jordan Valley? If so, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Aren’t you afraid, I continued, of Jordan nixing the peace accord? No, said the Likud official, there are prices a country must pay to achieve its goals. The annexation of the Jordan Valley is so important, so significant, as to be worth the risk.
The move would indeed be a strategic step. With a single decision, at least two of the far right’s dreams can be realized: the final elimination of the Palestinian state – there can be no state without an independent connection to Jordan – and the weakening of the Hashemite regime. If King Abdullah II falls, goes the dream of a few leading figures on the right, perhaps Jordan will turn into Palestine and what seemed to be an impossible fantasy will become feasible once again.
Netanyahu’s proposal that he continue to serve as prime minister for six months, explained the Likudnik, stemmed chiefly from the desire to leave behind a legacy: annexation of the Jordan Valley and the elimination of the Palestinian state. And how will you do that in an equal coalition with Kahol Lavan, I asked him.
You’d be surprised, he said. Kahol Lavan didn’t object. Didn’t object? Yes, there was an understanding that its legislators would be free to vote their conscience. Yael German and Ofer Shelah can vote nay, we won’t have a problem getting a majority.
I was convinced that my interlocutor was kidding. I was wrong, he was right. As astonishing (and horrifying) as it sounds, the supposed sane alternative to Netanyahu agreed to the crazy step of annexing the Jordan Valley. In their defense it should be said that they left themselves an out: Before they sign, they want the heads of the defense establishment to brief Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz on the consequences of annexation. Such an apocalyptic briefing, if leaked to the media, would perhaps give Gantz a reason to stop the madness. There has been no briefing, no signed agreement, but the idea is far from dead.
Now the U.S. administration is talking about publishing its much-maligned peace plan before the March election. Why before? After all, Washington put off publication of the deal, which is almost old enough for kindergarten, on the grounds that it was waiting for a new government in Israel.
What happened? The heads of Kahol Lavan are sure it’s President Donald Trump’s new way of helping Netanyahu. Instead of talking about criminal immunity, they’ll talk about a major deal, about annexing the Jordan Valley, about accomplishments that only Netanyahu can perform.
In an exceptional, unprecedented move, Gantz even spoke publicly against the possibility of intervention of this kind in the election. After all, the Americans know the Palestinians will reject the plan soon enough. What will they do then? Perhaps they’ll convey potential agreement to the Jordan Valley’s annexation? The fear in Kahol Lavan is that this would be Trump’s way of signaling to Israeli voters, particularly on the right and in the center, that this fantastic achievement depends on Netanyahu’s remaining in power.
And so, what appeared to be another trick by Netanyahu, to be pulled out 48 hours before the polls open, is slowly but surely becoming a serious proposal, which is risky beyond belief. If Netanyahu’s immunity is lifted, and Gantz continues to lean toward the right, the insanity could become reality.
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