By Yitzhak Ilan
Israel’s sovereignty initiative in the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria shouldn’t depend on the Palestinian, Arab or European response. It needs to derive from a strategic outlook; the question is whether it will benefit Israel decades and hundreds of years from now, not how others will respond the day after.
If we wait for consent from the Palestinians, and the Arab and European countries, it will never happen. Warnings that a third intifada could erupt—and that our relations with Jordan and the rest of the Arab world will be jeopardized—should not weaken our resolve. We are strong enough to handle Palestinian violence; they will lose more than they gain.
As for Jordan, the king understands very well that he has far more to lose (for example, the water that Israel transfers to Jordan) by harming relations with Israel.
Exactly 53 years later than we should have, namely after the spectacular victory in the Six-Day War, we must apply sovereignty in the Jordan Valley to demonstrate through action that we will never withdraw from there and that time is on our side, more so than for the Palestinians. We can’t afford to squander this opportunity because we might not get it again. After all, without the support of the U.S. administration, it cannot be done, and it’s entirely uncertain that such a rare confluence of circumstances—American support for the move together with Arab and European weakness—will ever repeat itself.
It doesn’t matter what Palestinian life in Judea and Samaria will ultimately look like—a demilitarized state, a quasi-state, autonomous or what have you—we need to control the Jordan Valley to defend our eastern border both militarily and demographically. Whoever thinks it’s possible to prevent weapons smuggling into Judea and Samaria and disastrous demographic changes to the country without controlling the Jordan Valley is fooling himself and living in a fantasy world.
As for applying sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, here, too, the time has come to decide what we are doing with the settlement enterprise and the half-million Jews who live in Judea and Samaria—and who were sent there, by all Israeli governments. This is the land of our forefathers, the land where the people of Israel and its culture were created, and therefore, we must apply sovereignty there as well, at least in the so-called large settlement blocs. In the same breath, we must declare that this doesn’t mean we have ceded, heaven forbid, our rights to the rest of the land. Just as when we applied sovereignty over Jerusalem in 1967, we didn’t declare that we were giving up all the rest.
David Ben-Gurion’s strategy of accepting any proposal giving the Jews sovereignty over parts of Israel, minuscule as they may be (Ben-Gurion even accepted the Peel Commission’s recommendation in 1937 that gave the Jews control of a mere 17 percent of western Israel and just four percent of the territory that the San Remo Conference earmarked for the national Jewish homeland), is a strategy that keeps proving itself correct.
We need to apply sovereignty for the future generations of Israel. We don’t have the right to drag our feet.
Yitzhak Ilan is a former deputy director of the Israel Security Agency. This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.