PM Binyamin Netanyahu
PM Binyamin NetanyahuIsrael news photo: Flash 90

A spokesman for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says Israel will not leave the Jordan Valley, regardless of whatever final status agreement is made with the Palestinian Authority.

Responding to rumors claiming that he was prepared to compromise on an Israeli presence in the region, Netanyahu told a Likud faction meeting Monday evening, “I will sign a final status agreement only if Israel remains in the Jordan Valley. I believe that we are thus acting sensibly, and looking out for the welfare and security of Israel,” he told party MKs.

An earlier, unconfirmed report published in the Hebrew-language Ma'ariv newspaper Monday morning claimed that Netanyahu had agreed to relinquish sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.

In a speech to the Knesset plenum last year at its special Herzl Day session, the Prime Minister laid down five conditions for a peace treaty with the Palestinian Authority – but the Jordan Valley was not listed among the items.

On June 14, 2009, Netanyahu laid out in a speech delivered at Bar Ilan University the conditions by which Israel would agree to the establishment of a PA state alongside the Jewish State. In that speech, he invited “all Arab leaders” to cooperate in building together with Israel an economic peace in any areas – including the Jordan Valley.  “An economic peace is not a substitute for a political peace,” he noted at the time, “but an important element to achieving it.... Together we can develop industrial areas that will generate thousands of jobs and create tourist sites that will attract millions of visitors eager to walk in the footsteps of history,” he said, listing “the baptismal site of the Jordan” among them, but not once intimating that Israel would ever withdraw from the site.

Spokesman Mark Regev added in a subsequent interview with Arutz Sheva Monday night, “The Prime Minister has said many times that an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley is a necessity. That has not changed."

When asked whether Netanyahu's position might not change, however, if an agreement were to pivot on that one item alone, Regev reiterated, "The Prime Minister has said an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley is a security issue.

“Security is not negotiable," he emphasized.