Israel’s interior minister prepares for sovereignty in Jordan Valley

“This is ours, this is the land of our forefathers,” said Interior Minister Aryeh Deri during a visit to the Jordan Valley.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Government officials have already begun preparing the necessary paperwork involved in applying Israeli sovereignty to areas of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Monday.

The minister, together with his Shas party MKs, was on a visit to the community of Mevo’ot Yericho in the Jordan Valley.

Acknowledging the Jewish history that the region represents, Deri said, “This is ours, this is the land of our forefathers,” who originally crossed into Israel through the Valley to settle it after the Exodus from Egypt, and “it’s a privilege to continue their life’s work.”

Jumping to the present, he continued, “On the municipal side, as minister of the interior, I want to say – we have begun preparing; there is work to do since sovereignty will be applied here.”

His statement possibly referred to the reported permission given in President Donald Trump’s peace plan for Israel to annex the Jordan Valley, as well as portions of Judea and Samaria. The president will reportedly be revealing the American initiative on Tuesday, when he meets for the second time in two days with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Deri might also have been acknowledging the pressure that the right-wing, including Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, has been applying over the last several days to annex the Jordan Valley immediately, as Netanyahu had pledged to do before the last Knesset election in September.

Before the prime minister flew to Washington on Sunday, Bennett had warned, “If this entire event ends without the extension of Israeli law now, before the [March] election, when the Americans are providing us tailwind and a chance to do so, then there won’t be a deal of the century, but rather a missed opportunity of the century.”

The interior minister’s words shed light on the practicalities involved in such a politically historic shift.

“There are a lot challenges we have to deal with,” he said, listing such matters as whether new local government authorities would need to be formed and officials elected because the Israeli army would cease being the authority in the region.

“We are preparing all the staff work, it’s not a simple thing,” Deri said. “There are a lot of legal and registration issues here…. But we welcome them and are waiting for [annexation] already.”

Meanwhile, Army Radio reported Monday that Netanyahu will not try to annex the Jordan Valley as his coalition partners are demanding, due to the heavy opposition emanating from Jordan and the fear that radical Jordanians may imperil the monarchy if Israeli sovereignty is applied now. Instead, he would suggest annexing the city of Maale Adumim, just east of Jerusalem, the report said.