Overcoming the Jordan Valley Foil

John Glaser, January 24, 2014

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Pro-Israel commentators have been known to downplay the importance of the Israel lobby here in the U.S. “The lobby” is not as influential, coordinated, sneaky, or nefarious as many of its critics maintain, they insist, while often making accusations of conspiratorial thinking.

In a strange, reverse-paranoia article at The Daily Beast, one of these pro-Israel commentators, Eli Lake, makes the argument that there is an “American Lobby in Israel” pressuring select Israeli leaders on a peace deal with the Palestinians. Oddly, he calls this a lobby even though he is referring to elected and appointed Washington diplomats out of the State Department and not private lobby groups or political action organizations.

Specifically, U.S. officials are talking with Israeli military officials about whether it is necessary for Israel to insist on maintaining an army occupation in the Jordan Valley (on Palestinian territory) as part of any final deal. Lake:

The Daily Beast has learned that Martin Indyk, the administration’s special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and his team have quietly been meeting with Israeli reservist generals and other leading national-security experts to discuss American ideas for securing the Jordan River Valley without a permanent Israeli troop presence. That’s an idea the current Israeli defense minister opposes, and strongly.

On the surface, these informal meetings may not sound like lobbying—at least, not the stuff-cash-in-congressmen’s-pockets style of lobbying we hear about in Washington. There’s no hard sales pitch, just a genteel discussion of issues. But the conversations are part of a larger effort to “prepare the Israeli public” to accept hard compromises for peace with the Palestinians, as one U.S. official working on the negotiations put it. And some senior members of the Israeli government, including Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, are not happy. Yaalon views the get-togethers with the Israeli reservist generals as a way to circumvent his own objections to any security plan that would require Israel not to have troops on the border with Jordan.

Oh, how wily and underhanded of Indyk! Far from a sneaky ploy to gin up support for a final deal without a continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands (which of course would never be accepted by the Palestinian side, as Yaalon and Netanyahu know full well), it seems entirely reasonable that the U.S. envoy would speak with Israeli generals about the need (or not) to have a presence in the Jordan Valley.

Lake seems to want to portray this as a quiet coup, since people like Yaalon and Netanyahu oppose IDF withdrawal from the West Bank. But many current and former officials don’t agree that an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley is necessary as part of a final deal. Dov Weisglass, who was a top advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and by no means a dove, wrote earlier this month that there really is no security justification for such a presence. Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan also argued there is no military or security need.

In reality, the push to maintain an occupation in the Jordan Valley,  an area constituting some 20% of the West Bank, is a political one about denying Palestinian statehood and holding out hope for an eventual annexation of the coveted “Judea and Samaria.” The increasing sway of the settler movement in Israeli politics has caused some politicians to insist on this presence in the Jordan Valley, but it seems clear they only insist upon it because they know it will destroy any chance for a peace settlement.

The last thing Israel wants is a final agreement. As Yousef Munayyer has written at The Daily Beast, “Israel needs negotiations to provide cover for its continued colonization of Palestinian territory and create the impression that its presence in the West Bank is temporary and its withdrawal around the corner.”




9 Responses to “Overcoming the Jordan Valley Foil”

  1. One can only imagine the outrage in Israel if there was an AIPAC equivalent "stuff-cash-in-pockets" hard sell US lobby that threatened the re-election campaigns of Knesset members. Might there be an outcry for such a lobby to be registered as an agent of a foreign power?

  2. Let the Palestinians choose who they would like to invite to train and equip their future security forces / military and let that nation garrison the Jordan Valley temporarily until the Palestinians are established and able to take on that responsibility themselves. This eliminates the Israeli argument that their presence is needed in the JV, and gives the up-and-coming Palestinian state the confidence to make its own choices. If the Israelis don't like who the Palestinians choose- after all, it might be Iran- they are then free to build and man whatever frontier defenses on their side of the border they deem necessary for their security.

  3. "… on their side of the border…"

    But THAT is the crux of this biscuit. Once the Israeli forces are ensconced along the Jordanian border, with Israeli settlements for the forces to live in, then following precedent the Israelis have already established, then the Jordan Valley by default becomes Israeli territory. After all, Netanyahoo has already stated that no Israeli will be up-rooted to establish a Palestinian state. So, Israeli settlement equates to land ownership. That's why the Israelis want to base soldiers along the Jordanian border. – sort of the Israeli version of manifest destiny.

  4. Thanks for the link to the The Daily Beast article, it is interesting to see how to the different lobby groups act behind the sences. For Isreal I hope that there will be a real peace in the region soon.

  5. We here in America can see how manifest destiny does against manifest fertility……. LOSS…!!!!!

  6. Exactly manifest destiny. Clearly the Israeli model for their every action from 1947 forward is the history of US colonization of the New World, with the Palestinians "getting" to play the role of the Native Americans.

  7. Israel has military superiority and a Napoleon complex. It would be an act of god if they came around and wanted an equable peace deal with the Palestinians.

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