Less than a week away from the legislative elections, the prime minister, seeking to secure the voices of the settlers, said he would apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, a large strategic area of the occupied West Bank. The announcement provoked outrage on the Palestinian side and the derision of the Israeli right, which doubts its sincerity.
A week before the legislative elections, the Israelis are now familiar with music: a poll announces Benyamin Netanyahu on the decline in the morning, the prime minister promises a “dramatic declaration” for the same evening. Thus, twenty-four hours after making a flop with yet another disclosure of information on the Iranian nuclear, Netanyahu shifted into gear on Tuesday evening promising “to apply Israel’s sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern part of the Dead Sea “. On condition, of course, to be reelected. That is, the promise to annex about a third of the occupied West Bank, or, in other words, the eastern border of a putative Palestine, to fertile and highly strategic military lands.
According to the map displayed by Netanyahu on Tuesday, the Palestinian city of Jericho would be reduced to an enclave cut off from the Palestinian territories, and it is difficult to see how the moribund “two-state solution” could recover. Ironically, Jericho was the first city controlled by the Palestinian Authority after the signing of the Oslo Accords.
- Strengthen its grip on the religious-nationalist electorate
For Netanyahu, this would only be a first step before the annexation of all settlements in the West Bank. What he has already promised many times in the past, but without taking action. To justify his sudden eagerness, interpreted as a desperate attempt to strengthen his grip on the religious-nationalist electorate, Netanyahu evokes “the unique historical opportunity” that would constitute the “peace plan” of US President Donald Trump, whose details could be revealed in the days following the election on 17 September.
“We have not had such a chance since the Six-Day War [in 1967, date of the conquest of the West Bank by Israel, ed], I doubt that we will have another in the next fifty years,” he hammered, implying that he had received the green light from the White House tenant by mentioning their “personal relationship”.
In June, David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, had already said that the Jewish state would be in his right if he decided to annex part of the West Bank, breaking with the international consensus on the settlement of the Israeli conflict. -Palestinian.
- Get back on the politico-media agenda
Netanyahu has made his specialties with Donald Trump one of his greatest assets, with the American president multiplying diplomatic offerings to his “friend Bibi”, such as the recognition of the annexation of the Golan by Israel a few weeks before the election. April. Nevertheless, Washington’s recent change of tone towards Tehran, openly going against the strident warnings of the Israeli prime minister, seems to indicate that his credit to Trump is not unlimited.
It was, therefore, necessary for Netanyahu, “let go” by Trump on Iran and side by side in the polls with his centrist rival, General Benny Gantz, to regain control of the politico-media agenda dominated by his corruption scandals. , and reaffirms his stature as a statesman above the fray. While giving new pledges to the settlers, while he seeks to siphon the votes of the far-right, as evidenced by his rare visit to Hebron, a highly disputed place in the occupied West Bank, the week before. Hence the promise of the annexation of settlements – Netanyahu speaks of “the application of Israeli sovereignty” but admitted in an interview that, concretely, the two terms were interchangeable – as if he was playing carpet, designating for the first time both a specific territory and a semblance of timing (the immediate after-elections).
The Palestinian reaction was not long in coming. On the Ramallah side, Saeb Erekat, a veteran of the peace talks, warned that such development would “bury” any hope of peace between Israelis and Palestinians and prolong the conflict for a century. Living in Jericho, Erekat added, “The Jordan Valley is where I live, [Netanyahu] wants to confine my grandchildren to four walls.” On the Gaza side, it was the rockets that spoke. Two projectiles were fired from the enclave over southern Israel, forcing Netanyahu to leave the platform of a rally he held at Ashdod. The images of the Prime Minister evacuated to the sound of sirens to the missile shelters were looped on the Israeli TVs Tuesday night.
- Maintain a presence along the Jordan
On the Israeli side, only the Democratic Union (Meretz merger with the micro-party of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak) and the Arab parties were offended by Netanyahu’s statement. The idea that Israel should forever have a presence along the Jordan is consensual in the Israeli establishment, still imbued with the Allon plan, conceived in 1967 just after the Six-Day War. This plan, never officially adopted but become a doctrine, conceives the Jordan Valley as an indispensable frontier for the defense of the country.
For example, Benny Gantz’s Blue & White Party was pleased to see Netanyahu “picking up” one of his proposals. Yamina, a far-right pro-settler group led by former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, was skeptical about the prime minister’s motivation to go all the way, relaying the doubts of the influential pro-group -colons Regavim, who claims “actions, not statements”. The ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman, whom the pollsters announce as the future arbiter of the election, has contented himself with a tweet containing the expression “dramatic statement” of Netanyahu, punctuated by two hilarious emojis. Before continuing, ironically, on Facebook: “Knowing you, I can assure voters that you will only apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley after doing it in the Sahara …”
- “Electoral gesture”
For International Crisis Group researcher Ofer Zalzberg, “It is essentially an electoral move, even if this is the first time that Netanyahu is so specific. But he has already been in a position to annex and has chosen not to do so, which explains why he has failed to convince the right of his sincerity. And I note that he presented things in such a way as to allow himself the opportunity to reconsider his decision – mentioning that his coalition should follow him and coordinate with the United States. ” On the other hand, if Netanyahu took action, Zalzberg fears the triggering of an uncontrollable political gear: “Post-annexation, the reality of the ground would not change dramatically, whether for Palestinians or Jewish [settlers]. But the symbolic burden of annexing 30-40% of the West Bank would catalyze very strong feelings among Palestinians, which could undermine the legitimacy and the very existence of the Palestinian Authority … “