Israel freezes Jordan Valley Annexation due to War Crimes Probe

Israeli soldiers stand guard in an old army outpost overlooking the Jordan Valley on June 23, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Israel has reportedly halted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex the Jordan Valley in the wake of a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch a probe into the regime’s war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Tuesday that the first meeting of an inter-ministerial committee on applying the Israeli “sovereignty” over the Jordan Valley had been canceled last week, hours before it was scheduled to start.

The meeting of the panel, chaired by acting director general of the prime minister’s office Ronen Peretz, was nixed after it became clear that an ICC announcement of a full investigation into Israeli war crimes was forthcoming.

“Because of the decision of the prosecutor in The Hague, the issue of annexing the Jordan Valley will enter a deep freeze,” an unnamed source told the Israeli daily.

The inter-ministerial committee had been tasked with formulating the Tel Aviv regime’s annexation move and a Knesset bill.

On Friday, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said a preliminary examination into war crimes, opened in 2015, had provided enough information to meet all criteria for opening an inquiry.

There was “a reasonable basis” to investigate the situation in Palestine, she said. “I am satisfied that … war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem [al-Quds], and the Gaza Strip.”

In September, Netanyahu vowed that if re-elected, he would immediately annex the Jordan Valley, a fertile strip of land that accounts for roughly one quarter of the West Bank.

Approximately 70,000 Palestinians and some 9,500 Israeli settlers currently live in the Jordan Valley.

Israeli political commentator Barak Ravid tweeted on Saturday that Netanyahu’s West Bank annexation plan was one of the causes of the ICC investigation.

“Here is what the prosecutor wrote in article 177: ‘Despite the clear and enduring calls that Israel cease activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory deemed contrary to international law, there is no indication that they will end. To the contrary, there are indications that they may not only continue but that Israel may seek to annex these territories,” he wrote.

The day before the ICC announcement, Netanyahu vowed to secure support from the US for the annexation of the Jordan Valley and other West Bank settlements.

“The first thing we will do is to apply our sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and also in settlements, and we will do so with American recognition,” he said.

Since taking office in 2017, US President Donald Trump has been showering Netanyahu with political gifts, including recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied city as well as cutting aid to the Palestinians and closing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington.

Before Israel’s general elections in April, Trump signed a decree recognizing Israeli “sovereignty” over Syria’s occupied Golan Heights.

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