Knesset Speaker and senior Likud politician Yuli Edelstein has told CNN that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex the Jordan Valley would be good for peace.
Asked to justify the plan – described by the presenter as “a wanton transgression of international law”, Edelstein claimed Netanyahu’s remarks were not “a campaign pledge”, and that “the sovereignty wouldn’t apply to the town of Jericho, where the Palestinians live”.
Pressed further, Edelstein claimed there were two main arguments in support of annexation.
“One, our historic rights there in the area,” the Knesset Speaker told CNN, “and the other one, every military expert I know and you know would agree that it’s impossible to defend the state of Israel without the military control in this area.”
“With these two issues combined I think that is quite obvious that under no negotiations we will be able to give up the Jordan Valley,” Edelstein continued, “so this is a very simple justification.”
Questioned by the presenter whether the annexation of the Jordan Valley would be unilateral, outside of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, Edelstein went as far as claiming that such a development would actually be a positive one for everyone.
“I think that as far as the Jordan Valley plan is concerned, it could bring us even closer to peace because things will become more clear,” Edelstein said, adding that some people’s “illusion” about “the future of this area” only makes it “harder to negotiate”.
The senior Likud figure also dismissed the idea that annexing the Jordan Valley would seriously damage Israel’s international standing.
“The move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, the recognition by the American administration of Israeli sovereignty over the [occupied Syrian] Golan Heights also were met with some condemnations,” Edelstein said, but “right now we see additional countries, some of them moving their embassies, some of them opening all kinds of cultural centres or trade centres in Jerusalem.”
“So I sincerely hope that if we talk and I hope we talk in two, three years from now, it will be quite natural for a country to have an embassy in Jerusalem. By the same token, I would say that probably in a number of years, it would be quite natural that Israel has sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.”