Is Israel really hesitating to grab the opportunity presented by the U.S. “Peace to Prosperity” plan? There are troubling signs that this might be the case.
First, the plan to apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley involved 30 percent of the territory. Then came the idea of extending sovereignty in phases—a bad idea that only invites rounds of violence and terrorism. Now, it appears we’ve sunk even lower, as Arab officials have said that the sovereignty bid will exclude the Jordan Valley, and that any move made in Judea and Samaria will only be symbolic.
Historic decisions may require careful consideration, but they also require courage and determination.
The U.S. Middle East peace plan is not without its faults, but Israel should have seized the opportunity and immediately applied sovereignty to the 30 percent the Americans suggested. But if that is not in the cards, Israel should start by extending sovereignty to the Jordan Valley first and shelve the plan to do the same with respect to the large settlement blocs.
The reason or this is simple: The greater Jerusalem area, Ma’ale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel will all eventually come under Israeli sovereignty—there’s a public consensus about that, one even the international community understands, albeit it will never publicly admit it.
This is not the case for the Jordan Valley, which does not enjoy any sort of consensus. Former prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak have negated the idea that the Jordan Valley is vital to Israel’s security needs, and two American administrations, one Republican and one Democrat, attempted to undermine Israel’s hold on the area.
Moreover, unlike Judea and Samaria, the Israeli government itself has neglected to encourage the settlement enterprise in the area and has refrained from making it a bona fide settlement bloc.
This is why extending Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley is urgent. The smaller communities in Judea and Samaria need it to anchor the sovereignty bid. The larger settlement blocs can wait.
Nadav Shragai is a veteran Israeli journalist.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.