This statement was made by late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin before the Knesset plenum in 1995. And he is not the only one: The perception that the Jordan Valley should remain Israel’s security border in every agreement with the Palestinians has been shared by all Israeli governments in the past 20 years – from the Rabin government through the Sharon government to the I listen to the different statements on possibly giving up on the Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and IDF presence both in the Valley and in the back of the mountain in Judea and Samaria – and I’m astonished. One can determine unequivocally that the Israeli security control in the Jordan Valley and in the back of the mountain in Judea and Samaria is necessary for maintaining the State of Israel’s security, and is an essential component of its security perception.
It’s important to stress: This is a security perception and not necessarily ideological. I am saying this from the viewpoint of an IDF major-general, from my experience as commander of the Ground Forces in the ongoing war on terror and in Operation Defensive Shield, from my familiarity with terror and our enemies’ methods of action, and from a broad familiarity with the nature of the conflict between us and the Palestinians and the Islamic elements in our region and with the battle’s arena.
The Jordan Valley should serve as a buffer zone creating physical separation between the Jordanian kingdom on the east and the Palestinian Authority on the west. Giving up on Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley means creating territorial continuity between Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
This will immediately put the State of Israel in double jeopardy: First of all, the lack of control over the Palestinian Authority’s eastern border will allow the smuggling of weapons strategically threatening the State of Israel into its territory, contrary to the agreements the sides will sign. Secondly, the Palestinian Authority’s shared border with Jordan, whose population is mostly Palestinian, may undermine the stability of King Abdullah’s regime – a moderate regime which the State of Israel has the utmost interest to maintain.
The Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley is necessary in order to handle threats of terror from the east, like the infiltration of terrorists and weapons, and as a response to other possible military threats. Without security control in Judea and Samaria – and especially in the back of the mountain – Israel will remain without vital strategic depth, considering the fact that the Palestinian territories will be just hundreds of meters to several kilometers away from Israel’s large population centers and key strategic facilities.
Security control of the Jordan Valley without controlling the back of the mountain in Judea and Samaria is like a foot without the leg. There is no creative solution which can serve as an alternative to the control of the Jordan Valley; not even a serious obstacle like the fence, which cannot prevent terror and tunnels. An international force is not a solution either. All the examples in our region prove that such forces don’t operate against terror and are ineffective against hostile elements.
An IDF withdrawal from the Jordan Valley will jeopardize the State of Israel’s security. Israel cannot and must not take such a risk and remain without strategic depth.
Major-General (res.) Yiftah Ron-Tal is a former commander of the IDF’s Ground Forces