Regardless of how far-reaching or limited, and immediate or gradual, the process may actually be, Israel should apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, but it must not do so under the framework of the Trump peace plan.
That plan, if implemented, exacerbates all of Israel’s present security concerns and leaves it with no discernible advantages. Israel’s sovereignty over the Jordan Valley must be decoupled from the Trump plan.
The extension of Israeli sovereignty is a policy consonant with the principled, decades-long held view of Israeli leaders that Israel must retain security control over the Jordan Valley. That bedrock of Israeli national security, combined with the continued growth of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, has increased the calls for international recognition of Israeli sovereignty in those areas — the recognition of which would enshrine Israel’s national security imperatives in law and resolve the somewhat purgatorial status of Israelis who live there.
Indeed, Israel should have recognized its own sovereignty over Judea and Samaria long ago, just as it did over the Golan Heights in 1981, but it has not yet done so. Instead, it has deferred any decisive legislative action vis-à-vis the Jordan Valley right up to the present day.
Absent an Israeli declaration, the Trump plan is now the voice most openly calling for the recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley, something that has pleased many observers who value the importance of Israel affixing its eastern border. The unfortunate consequence of this is that the Trump administration seems a more strident supporter of the idea than do many Israeli policy makers.
A thorough analysis of the plan reveals that the concessions requested of the Israelis in exchange for American support of sovereignty extension are far too great for Israel to accept or work from as a basis for negotiation.
Heavily conditioned upon a change in Palestinian behavior though the plan is, it encourages negotiations on issues that Israel has long considered non-negotiable, to a degree that is unpalatable and unacceptable.
First: the question of Jerusalem. The Trump plan explicitly proposes that the capital of a future Palestinian state will be situated in East Jerusalem. It states:
The sovereign capital of the State of Palestine should be in the section of East Jerusalem … and could be named Al Quds. Jerusalem should be internationally recognized as the capital of the State of Israel. Al Quds … should be internationally recognized as the capital of the State of Palestine.
If Israel applies sovereignty to the Jordan Valley as part of the Trump plan, it will be doing so while knowingly elevating the partition of Jerusalem to a legitimate subject for negotiation. Jerusalem is the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish people. President Trump cannot be allowed to play King Solomon with that city.
Second, the plan explicitly calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria. By applying sovereignty over the Jordan Valley as part of the deal, Israelis themselves will be party to a proposal that anchors a Palestinian state in the heart of the Jewish people’s ancient homeland.
This would expose Israel to a potentially belligerent Palestine perched atop the Judean hills. Such a Palestine would enjoy a topographical advantage over Israel’s most densely populated civilian areas and industrial sectors, including Tel Aviv.
This plan defies the ideological and religious principles of many Israelis who support sovereignty.
It wantonly ignores the pyrrhic price Israel could be required to pay, according to the plan itself, promoted as it is by a transactional American president who, beyond November, would be free from reelection considerations, and will likely be in pursuit of a foreign policy legacy.
Third, this plan dangerously resurrects the widely discredited “land for peace” strategy that harmed Israel’s security interests in the past and continues to do so in the present. It encourages further concessions of Israeli land, specifically in the Negev region, for the stated purpose of expanding the Gaza Strip.
Gaza has been a haven for terrorists since the Israeli withdrawal from the enclave in 2005. There is no evidence to support the idea that an expansion of Gaza’s borders into Israel will improve the situation.
In essence, the plan offers Israeli land adjacent to the Gaza Strip that has been cultivated and inhabited by Israelis for a century — and which is in no way disputed — to an enemy state. It effectively calls for the affixing of Israel’s eastern border with Jordan, with whom Israel has a peace treaty, at the cost of further ensnaring over a million Israelis within a reality of continuing, sustained, indiscriminate rocket barrages from an ever-larger launching pad to Israel’s west.
Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, stated, “It is in the Negev where the creativity and pioneering vigor of Israel will be tested.” Ceding Israeli land in that part of the country will destroy that vision.
In addition to the many flaws particular to the Trump plan, it’s high time that Israel disentangles itself from US-brokered peace processes writ large. Historically, peace deals brokered by Americans have not aged well for Israelis. Every concession to the Palestinians simply becomes the starting point for the next round of negotiations, while Israel gains nothing in return — not peace, nor quiet, nor international legitimacy.
No other sovereign nation awaits the permission of the United States of America when deciding its domestic affairs and priorities, as Israel has done. The parameters of the Trump plan prove that it is not in Israel’s interests to continue to do so, despite the long-standing bonds between the two countries.
If the American “quid” is the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over land Israel already legitimately holds, Israel’s “quo” must not be the division of its capital, the anchoring of a Palestinian state in its heartland, the ceding of further land, and the placement of its citizens in yet greater danger.
Israel must reject the Trump plan outright. It only endangers Israel further. Instead, Israel should assert full effective civil control over the Jordan Valley, and arrive at the next negotiation from a place of strength.
The MirYam Institute is the leading international forum for Israel focused discussion, dialogue, and debate, focused on campus presentations, engagement with international legislators, and gold-standard trips to the State of Israel. Follow their work at www.MirYamInstitute.org.