As July 1 approaches, mystery remains regarding Israeli plans. In 2017, when American President Donald Trump announced his schemes to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and later on moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied city, that was the beginning of a tremour that shook the foundations of any independent Palestinian state. Sadly, that was too prescient and Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Jordanians have been trying since 1994 to regain Palestinian rights.
No one seems to discern the magnitude and nature of the annexation. In the meantime, a gesticulation of some kind sounds prospective, hearsays range from bids to enforce sovereignty on the Jordan Valley and the main settlement blocs to an inconsiderable, principally declarative move.
Many politicians and experts have been wringing their hands over the approaching and threatening calamity. Some believe that any implementation of the annexation plan will explode the region and end peace agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Some believe that this is the end of the two-state solution, warning of a third uprising (Intifada).
Trump has pushed for Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, and Democratic nominee Joe Biden made it clear that he would not reverse the new reality, driving Tel Aviv to improve its political and economic ties with Arab states which have no borders with Israel. Many American experts do confirm that Arabs cannot reverse the idea of annexation as Israel is already on the borders with Jordan, and it controls all PNA crossings with Arab countries.
Since 2017, the PNA has witnessed a well-planned degradation of conditions to exercise more pressure on the Palestinian officials and government to adhere to Israeli demands and to relinquish people’s legitimate rights for more concessions to serve the Israeli plans. The same pressure was exercised on Jordan. His Majesty King Abdullah has more than once reiterated that too much pressure is exercised on Jordan to weaken the Kingdom’s supportive position to the Palestinian cause.
In the aftermath of the announcement of the US peace vision, Jordan restated on January 28, 2020 that the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the June 4, 1967 border lines with East Jerusalem as its capital on the basis of the two-state solution is the only path towards a comprehensive and lasting peace. That was a statement to avoid any future diplomatic deterioration. Concerns of Arab countries, mainly of Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, have been recently made crystal clear to the American administration. Bold tactics by the Israeli government seek to change the landscape overnight to counter internal, regional and international opposition.
Risks of annexing parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley stem from ending the two-state solution and the transfer of Palestinians to nearby countries. The Jordan Valley is the eastern border of the Palestinian territories, and it constitutes 30 per cent of the area of the West Bank, which is the entire external border, and its depth ranges between 15 to 30 kilometres from the Jordan River and forms the eastern slopes of the Jordan Valley. The total area of the Jordan Valley is almost 722,000 dunums.
Since 1967, Israel has established 90 military sites in the Jordan Valley, and has 36 settlements in this area, the majority of which are agricultural. Any control of this area means the loss of external borders for the Palestinians, as well as control of more than 30 per cent of the area of the West Bank.
The Jordan Valley includes the eastern water basin and forms about 170 cubic metres of water from the West Bank. Once Israel fully controls the Jordan Valley, the Palestinians would lose 4 million cubic metres of water from the Jordan River. In other words, the Jordan Valley is a source of great economic income due to its fertile lands, representing 50 per cent of the total agricultural areas in the West Bank. Furthermore, the Jordan Valley is a hub for many natural resources including those of the Dead Sea. The shores of the Dead Sea are also important touristic sites.
At present, there are 10 settlement blocs in the West Bank and 406 military checkpoints, which separate the West Bank cities and governorates. Some of the blocs are located on the Green Line. These blocs have strategic importance, and they form a wedge between Palestinian cities. The settlement blocs system, and the Israeli West Bank Barrier, the ring road systems and the military checkpoints contribute to the division and isolation of the West Bank within cantons and control approximately 67 per cent of the West Bank, practically undermining the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The West Bank and towns near East Jerusalem are divided in pursuance of the “Oslo” interim peace agreement into three regions. The first (A) is subject to full Palestinian control. The second (B) is subject to Israeli security and administrative Palestinian control. The third (C) is subject to Israeli security and administrative control. The international community considers Area C as part of the West Bank and the Palestinian state.
If this annexation process proceeds, it will be preceded by forced displacement of the population, especially those in Area C as Israeli forces have already controlled most of the West Bank, and the Jordan Valley areas are the most in the area classified as C. This process has started with establishing 7 natural reserves in the Jordan Valley and Jericho areas.
Shehab Al Makahleh is a columnist in The Jordan Times.