Arab party reconsiders support of Gantz over Jordan Valley annexation

Gen. Benny Gantz, one of the leaders of the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) political alliance, visits Naharayim, also known as Baqura, which has been leased to Israel as part of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty

Shlomi Eldar reports in Al Monitor:

Whether or not it’s an election campaign spin by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Jordan Valley annexation initiative is already on the table. Netanyahu, as I wrote previously, is promising to annex the land after the elections in order to kill two birds with one stone. The first is to please the settlers, for whom annexation of the valley is a precursor of future Israeli sovereignty over Area C of the West Bank and even more. The second is to set a trap for the opposition Blue and White party: If its members oppose the annexation, they would be publicly condemned as leftists willing to abandon land that lies at the heart of the Israeli consensus, and if they support it, they will lose the potential support of the Joint List — the unified slate of predominantly Arab parties.

Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley annexation pronouncements have generated concern among Israeli security officials as well as in Jordan and the international community. Channel 12 News reported on Dec. 3 that Israeli security officials have warned Netanyahu that the move could jeopardize the 25-year Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty. According to the report, senior defense officials believe if Israel imposes sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, Jordan’s King Abdullah II would have no choice but to suspend the peace treaty under heavy Jordanian public pressure. This kind of pressure is what recently led Jordan to demand Israel hand back the two border enclaves of Tzofar and Naharayim that it had leased from Jordan under the terms of the peace agreement.

In a Dec. 5 annual report, International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda also expressed concern not only over Netanyahu’s intentions and declarations but also over the reaction by Blue and White, which Netanyahu had managed to snare in the annexation trap. Senior Blue and White Knesset member and former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon tweeted on Dec. 2 that a national unity government led by party chief Benny Gantz could carry out such annexation within less than five months.

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