Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that if he wins next week’s election, he would seek to apply Israeli sovereignty over Israeli settlements and guarantee strategic depth to Israel by also applying sovereignty to the Jordan Valley.
Israel has insisted in previous negotiations with Palestinians on retaining control of the Jordan Valley for an extended period of time in order to protect its eastern border with Jordan.
The Jordan Valley is a 2,400 km2 strip of land in the West Bank to the east of Israel and equates to 30% of the West Bank. It has been under Israeli control since June 1967.
Only 8,000 Israelis live in the Jordan Valley due to the harsh landscape, heat and lack of quality land, spread out over 30 small, mostly agricultural settlements.
The announcement has been seen by Israeli commentators as a bid by Netanyahu to win votes from right-wing rivals, ahead of Tuesday’s election.
In a joint statement on Thursday, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain said that they are: “Deeply concerned about the announcement of a possible annexation of areas in the West Bank, particularly the Jordan valley and the northern shore of the Dead Sea”, adding that, if implemented, it would “constitute a serious breach of international law”. They called on “all parties to refrain from actions in contravention of international law that would imperil the viability of a two-state solution, based on the 1967 lines, and make it harder to achieve a just and lasting peace”. The statement ended: “We are clear about Israel’s right to security and strongly condemn recent attacks on Israel from Gaza”.