The IDF will remain in the Jordan Valley to defend Israel, regardless of any future Palestinian Authority state, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday during a tour of military posts and bases in the area. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas responded by demanding sovereignty of the area, along with all of Judera and Samaria.
In remarks that may have been a warm-up for his expected new policy statement on PA demands, the Prime Minister told reporters, "Our security border is here on the Jordan and our defense line begins here. If that line is breached they will be able to infiltrate terrorists, rockets and missiles all the way to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Be'er Sheva and throughout the country.
"There is no alternative to the IDF's line of defense. Therefore, in any future situation, and I say in any future arrangement as well, the IDF must stay here, i.e. along the Jordan River. This is the State of Israel's insurance policy. If this was true before the major unrest now shaking the Middle East and the entire region, it is doubly true today. The IDF must remain along the Jordan River."
The Israeli part of the Jordan Valley is a long and narrow strip of land that is bordered by the Jordan River on the east, with Jordan on its other bank, and by a range of hills on the west, running from the Lebanese border in the north to the eastern hills of Samaria and the Judean Hills in the south.
Its sparse population, relatively flat terrain and proximity to Jordan make it strategic territory. Before the 1967 Six Day War, terrorists from Jordan staged hundreds of attacks, hiding in the adjoining hills and caves that Israeli reservists called "the Land of the Chase [after terrorists, ed.]". The IDF would regularly sand the dirt roads along the Jordan River to enable it to trace terrorist tracks, before the area was restored to Israel in the war.
Citing the Muslim uprisings in Arab countries, the Prime Minister said, “We live in a world that is undergoing a very major shake-up. As I have said, the entire region around us is in a state of instability, and is undergoing a political and security earthquake of which we have not seen the end.
“In this situation, more than ever, we need to ensure that we have solid security foundations upon which to defend the State of Israel."