Following the prime minister’s declaration that the Jordan Valley would be annexed if he wins the elections, residents react with mixed emotions.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Jordan Valley residents reacted with caution to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration Tuesday that he would would apply Israeli sovereignty to the region should he win reelection.
The hot, arid region running along Israel’s border with Jordan is considered Area C of Judea and Samaria – an area fully controlled by Israel under the Oslo Accords. (The Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Jericho and its environs is the only exception, and would not be affected by any Israeli annexation.)
Both left-wing and right-wing governments have always deemed it a vital strategic bulwark protecting the eastern flank of the country, and have maintained that it would therefore always be part of Israel.
The residents themselves say they have never felt that they were anything other than fully Israeli.
“Today and yesterday feel the same to me,” said one father of three to Israel Hayom. “Our routine continues. I’m not at all sure that my life will look any different if the Jordan Valley is annexed. I’m an Israeli citizen, pay taxes and serve in the Reserves.”
Another, Yinon Rosenbloom, said, “We feel that we are a part of the state, and there’s no doubt this this is also our right. They’re not doing us a favor. Personally, I feel good about [the declaration], but until it happens we won’t go out and … celebrate.”
Another reason for people’s wait-and-see attitude was their acknowledgment that Netanyahu’s promise was made in the context of a tight election campaign.
They are also fully cognizant of the fact that successive governments have worked too slowly to improve the very real infrastructure problems that affect the approximately 15,000 residents in 28-odd villages of the Valley. These issues that affect them on a day-to-day basis are much more important to them than the issue of sovereignty.
According to road safety organization Or Yarok, since 2003 over 500 car accidents have killed 68 and injured some 1,600 people on the Valley’s main, north-south Route 90. There are not enough traffic lights, traffic circles, signage or lighting on the two-lane highway, and cars and trucks go over the speed limit with little police presence.
Another issue for residents is the lack of local medical care.
“I had to go all the way to Maaleh Adumim to get an ear examination,” Ahuva Caspi of Tamra told Yedioth Ahronot, “because the doctor never gets to the Valley. I understand that I don’t live in the center [of the country] but in all these years the government could have brought medical services closer to us.”
The electricity supply is also problematic, with many short blackouts every day, and the water supply can be erratic.
“Every summer there’s a new battle over water,” said Gadi Blumenfeld, one of the many date-growers in the region.
Agriculture is the biggest industry of the Valley, and a steady supply of water is crucial. Besides inferior infrastructure, the farmers are also badly affected by the pirating of their water through illegal connections to the piping system, mainly by Palestinians.