Akunis: Coalition in Danger from Kerry Deal
Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud-Beytenu) warned Friday that significant changes may be looming in the coalition government's future, due to US Secretary of State John Kerry's peace deal that would have Israel completely withdraw from the Jordan Valley over the course of 10 years.
Akunis, who is close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and has recently emphasized the importance of the Jordan Valley, claimed US pressure could break apart the coalition, reports Yisrael Hayom.
"The main problem threatening coalition unity is Kerry," claimed Akunis. "The problem is only growing amid a one-sided agreement, which harms the coalition's existence in its current formation, even after concessions Israel would make."
Were the coalition to break apart, Shas Chairman MK Aryeh Deri has said just this Thursday that his party would not step in as a "safety net" to form a new coalition, enabling territorial withdrawals. Meanwhile a Rabbinical Congress for Peace delegation met Knesset ministers Wednesday, urging them to threaten resignation and a collapse of the coalition to thwart Israeli concessions.
Akunis reports that Kerry's proposed deal "expresses an assertive American position." His comments come as Kerry is set to launch a January diplomatic "offensive" to force Israeli concessions.
"For whatever reason (US President) Barack Obama and Kerry don't understand that precisely things done under the strongest American pressure, such as releasing murderers and ceding the (Jordan) Valley, leads to the exact opposite results of what was expected by the State Department," declared Akunis.
Akunis stressed that there is a wide Israeli consensus concerning the strategic necessity of maintaining a Jordan Valley presence.
Despite this, "the Americans are doing the exact opposite and hitting the most sensitive points of the Israeli public," warned Akunis. "It's a lack of understanding regarding Israeli society, and as I said, it puts the current coalition formation in danger."
Meanwhile on Thursday, the Knesset's Land of Israel Lobby held a tour of the Jordan Valley, stressing their commitment to the region.
“Without the Jordan Valley, Israel will not have the strategic depth necessary to defend itself,” said Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar during the tour, adding "an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley will be a requirement of Israel's defense for many generations to come."
"Without Jewish settlement, the army has nothing to defend and no reason to be there, and without the army there will be only terror," warned Sa'ar.
Coalition head Yariv Levin also took part in the tour, pledging the coalition's support of Netanyahu in opposing US pressure.
“We have a strong coalition that will ensure the security of the Jordan Valley," said Levin. "We expect (Netanyahu) to remain strong on this issue. I am sure that we will continue to develop the Jordan Valley and help it grow.”