A bill proposed by MK Miri Regev which would annex the Jordan Valley, keeping it in Israeli hands in any future land agreement, was approved Sunday by a ministerial committee. The bill received support from eight members of the committee, representatives of the Likud, Yisrael Beitenu and Habayit Hayehudi parties. However, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, and Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri have appealed the bill, meaning it is unlikely to pass into law.
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar said: “There is no divide between settlement and security. The Jordan Valley is consensus for the citizens of Israel. Never mind – let them know the Jordan Valley will be Israeli under any final agreement.”
The role of the Ministerial Legislative Committee is to determine which bills will receive the support of the coalition. Generally, bills approved by the committee pass into law. In this case, however, since several ministers have appealed, it will have to be resubmitted for another vote, and that can only happen at the discretion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Jordan Valley is part of the Samaria region, a region of significance in terms of history, politics and security. US Secretary of State is said to be pushing for a deal in which Israel would withdraw completely from the region, but would be protected by a temporary security arrangement in which either IDF or foreign forces would patrol the area. Netanyahu has said in the past that due to the region’s strategic importance, an Israeli military presence would remain, even if a withdrawal was agreed upon.
Minister Livni said during the meeting: “I have no respect for the proposal and its backers who are weakening themselves. By supporting this bill you are essentially giving up on the government’s authority to make decisions on important issues.” She also commented that the bill “is meant to harm Israeli interests.”
“The government is tying its hands and the hands of the prime minister,” she said. “A profound debate must be held on such issues. You can’t ratify such populist proposals… which cause great damage to the State of Israel and render it isolated in the world.”
The Palestinian Authority also weighed in on the issue. Speaking to Palestinian news source Ma’an, Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the PA, said the vote “shows the extent of Israeli disrespect for international law and the efforts of the [Middle East] Quartet.” He added that should the bill pass, the PA would seek recognition from the UN as an independent state.
Regev, however, explained, “The ministerial committee’s approval of this bill now, when there are talks with the Palestinians, is a clear statement by the government that the towns in the Jordan Valley are a strategic and security asset of the State of Israel that must stay in our hands.”