The Israeli Ministerial Legislative Committee approved on Sunday a bill to annex the Jordan Valley to Israel. The bill was endorsed by a vote of eight to three and will be sent to the Knesset for consideration, Israeli media have reported.
Similar bills on annexing occupied East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights have been approved previously.
Likud MK Miri Regev proposed the bill, which was opposed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. They and others have vowed to appeal the vote, and if that happens then the bill will be subject to a revote and need the approval of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a move that many believe will kill the legislation.
According to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the proposed law is designed to prevent an Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley in the east of the occupied West Bank, if and when a peace deal with the Palestinians is ever achieved.
Livni, who is responsible for the negotiations file, called the bill "irresponsible", warning that it was designed to harm the government. "If the bill's supporters had known it would pass," she told Israeli Radio, then "they would have opposed it."
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has remarked that the proposed legislation highlights Israel's "indifference" to the ongoing negotiations.
The bill was approved amidst continuous international efforts to advance the peace talks, which resumed in July after a three-year hiatus. The current plan being put forward by US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly focuses on security arrangements in the West Bank, highlighting Israel's intransigence towards dismantling its occupation of the Jordan Valley.
An informed Palestinian source told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Kerry is determined to come up with the framework of an agreement, which he hopes will eventually lead to a final agreement, between the Palestinians and the Israelis within the next one or two months.
The source explained to the London-based newspaper that Kerry is trying to appease the Israelis by proposing a heavy American presence in the Jordan Valley. Kerry has already presented his plan to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who reportedly showed no objection.
According to the Palestinian source, the Americans are considering the possibility of monitoring the borders by planting defence and alarm devices that would be under Israeli control, thus rendering the occupation less visible but still intact.