Netanyahu expands separation wall to Jordan Valley

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A Palestinian youth rides his bicycle next to Israel's "apartheid wall" on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Al Akhbar English)

A Palestinian youth rides his bicycle next to Israel’s “apartheid wall” on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Al Akhbar English)

The Netanyahu government has now announced that it will expand the separation wall to seal in the Jordan Valley, building along the border with Jordan. The Israeli daily Maariv broke [Hebrew] the story yesterday, citing that Netanyahu also promised to increase the speed of construction along the northern border with Syria and Lebanon.

The idea of formally retaining Israeli control over the Jordan Valley dates back to just after the June 1967 war when Yigal Allon mapped out a plan to annex the agricultural lowlands as part of the Allon Plan. Within a year socialist-inspired kibbutzniks working alongside IDF bases established the first settlements. “Defensible borders without peace are preferable to peace without defensible borders,” wrote Allon two years after the occupation began. For Allon, it was more important to gain control of the Jordan Valley rather than sign a peace deal with the Palestinian leadership. “It is better if they are secure, even if for many years to come they are not agreed,” he continued.

In recent years Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shown a renewed emphasis in the Jordan Valley. In 2010 the Likud leader asserted to the Israeli public, “Israeli will never cede the Jordan Valley.”

One year later Netanyahu repeated his stance [PDF] to congress stating,

‘Israel will never cede the Jordan Valley. Israel would never agree to withdraw from the Jordan Valley under any peace agreement signed with the Palestinians. And it’s vital – absolutely vital – that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.’

Around the same time he began to lobby Israel’s defense ministry to begin planning the route of the wall. Marriv reports:

In a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee hearing held two years ago, Netanyahu said that there is a danger of invasion in Judea and Samaria from the [Palestinians in the] Jordan Valley. He did not elaborate but made clear: ‘We must continue the Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley along the Egyptian border and the Jordanian border. The government is examining the possibility of establishing a fence.’

In 2007 Israel suspended expansion of the separation barrier. Last year the construction restarted, concentrating on the regions near Israel’s northern and western borders. With the addition of the Jordan Valley, Netanyahu will have effectively walled-in the country.

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