This week opened with big headlines, informing us that if negotiations with the Palestinians collapse, the Europeans will lay the blame on the State of Israel - specifically, on the Netanyahu Government’s insistence upon announcing spectacular settlement construction projects. Such assigning of blame by the EU might have far-reaching consequences to the Israeli economy. The logical response of a rational Israeli government should have been an intense diplomatic effort in the capitals of Europe , in order to gain support for the Israeli point of view.
Conversely, what was the actual reaction of the actual government which governs Israel nowadays? Adding insult to injury, piling provocation upon provocation, as if on purpose to conclusively convince the Europeans that they were right in determining the identity of the culprit. The immediate response of the Netanyahu Government to the storm clouds in the European sky was to approve (so far, only in a ministerial committee) a bill to annex the Jordan Valley . In the past month, the Jordan Valley became the focus of negotiations and debate - between Israel and the Palestinians, between Israel and the United States, as well as among factions of Israelis. This was not by chance, nor is it the first time. One of the main reasons for the failure of the Camp David summit in 2000 was the demand of then Prime Minister Ehud Barak to maintain a long term Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley.
Among the Israel public, the full implications of such as demand, made in the name of "security", are not always fully understood. The Jordan Valley constitutes in effect a huge cork, bottling in the Palestinians and blocking their free access to the outside world. Israeli control of the Jordan Valley means that it would be Israel which is in control of the borders of the State of Palestine, determining who will go and out and who will be banned, which goods may or may not be imported and exported. It would mean that Palestine will not be a truly independent state, but an enclave under a continued Israeli rule. It would mean that Israeli occupation of the Palestinians will go on - and if the occupation goes on, so will the conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians.
According to various unofficial reports, the security plan submitted by the Americans to the parties includes a continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley for quite a few more years - a very bitter pill for the Palestinians to swallow. They just might agree to sign, reluctantly and with a gnashing of teeth, an agreement specifying a long transition period before the termination of occupation in the Jordan Valley – provided that it is a binding agreement with a clear-cut date by which the last Israeli soldier will depart from that region. But is there an Israeli partner ready to make such a commitment? I rather doubt it.
According to the same unofficial leaks, the American proposal does not include any provision for the continued existence of Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley. Nor is there a reason to include such a clause. The security arguments brought up by Netanyahu and others certainly do not require the presence of Israeli farmers in the Jordan Valley. Israeli settlements in the valley do maintain a flourishing agriculture, based on intensive drilling of water which causes the drying up of the springs which had been used for generations by the nearby Palestinian villages. A security value to these settlements cannot be detected even with a magnifying glass. There is one purpose and one only to these settlements: to make a clearly visible statement that the Jordan Valley is to remain an Israeli territory for decades and centuries to come.
That is also the precise message conveyed by the bill which was authored by Knesset Member Miri Regev and enthusiastically endorsed by Gideon Saar and senior ministers of the Likud and Jewish Home parties, at the vote in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. The message is loud and clear: Your attention please, Palestinians and Europeans and Americans! If any of you still entertained any of shadow of a doubt, please get rid of it: we have no intention whatsoever of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians.
How would you define a government which behaves like that? The definition which naturally comes to mind is: a suicidal government.
The Hebrew version was published at http://news.walla.co.il/?w=/4996/2708367