Netanyahu Pushes Israeli Sovereignty over Jordan Valley after US Democrats Push Back

Home in Ma’ale Adummim Settlement in Judea and Samaria region. Illustrative. Photo by Joshua Spurlock.

In another disturbing sign the United States’ official approach to Israel is becoming a politically partisan issue, Democrats in the US House of Representatives led a resolution last week that called for the US to “discourage” the annexation of territory and highlighted historic opposition to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, known as settlements. Just days later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he doesn’t just want to annex the Biblically historic Jordan Valley that serves as Israel’s eastern border, he wants American support for it.

“Just as I wanted American recognition for our sovereignty over the Golan Heights, I want American recognition for our sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. This is important,” said Netanyahu on Sunday in comments released by his office.

Judea and Samaria—territory the Palestinians also claim and call the ‘West Bank’—are home to a number of Biblical sites, including the Jordan Valley, Bethlehem, Jericho, Hebron, and Shechem. Following his meeting last week with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Netanyahu confirmed that the Jordan Valley annexation plan has not been formally broached with the US. However, he also said that “the subject has been discussed.”

“I have raised it with Secretary of State Pompeo and I intend to raise it before the Trump administration,” noted Netanyahu. “The time has come to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and to also arrange the status of all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, those within the [large settlement] blocs and those not within the blocs. They will be part of the State of Israel.”

Recently, the US Trump Administration declared that Israeli civilian settlements in Judea and Samaria are not inherently illegal under international law. In response, Democrats led a resolution last Friday in the US House that noted historically, the US has “opposed settlement expansion” and “moves toward unilateral annexation of territory,” according to text of the resolution posted to the US Congress website.

On Sunday, Netanyahu referenced some of the American pressure he has faced regarding the settlements. “We have been obliged to struggle against American administrations that did not see eye-to-eye with us on our rights in the Land of Israel, on settlement in the Land of Israel,” said Netanyahu. “…I rejected the pressures. The Jewish population in Judea and Samaria has grown—and has doubled. Hundreds of thousands have been added. By the way, we have not expelled anyone and we have not uprooted anyone. This required a great diplomatic effort.”

As for the latest US House resolution, 221 of the 232 Democrats in the House voted for the resolution, according to the House website, compared to just five Republicans, who sit in the same political party as US President Donald Trump. 183 Republicans opposed the measure, including Rep. Dan Bishop, a newly elected member from North Carolina.

“The Israel-Palestinian conflict requires serious, thoughtful consideration, not partisan politics,” said Bishop in a press release posted to his website. “We should not confine ongoing Administration efforts to secure peace by insisting that it rigidly advance the exact previous proposals that have failed. I continue to be a strong supporter of Israel and its people and look forward to promoting peace in the region.”

On Saturday, Trump doubled down on his approach to Middle East peace. “My administration has now corrected a longstanding injustice by officially declaring that international law does not prohibit civilian settlements in the West Bank,” Trump was quoted by the White House website as saying.

He contrasted that to the European Union Court of Justice effort to “discriminate against products made in Israeli settlements.”

Last week, during his meeting with Pompeo, Netanyahu expressed his gratitude at the Trump Administration’s view of the settlements.

“I think that contrary to every common spin, this actually advances peace, because peace has to be based on truth, and not on lies,” said Netanyahu in comments published by his office. “We are committed to advancing security, prosperity and peace in our region, and I believe this conversation and many others will do exactly that.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, December 8, 2019)

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