Against the backdrop of a U.S. security plan which includes the gradual withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Jordan Valley, GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon met Sunday with the heads of the Yesha Council, which represents communities in Judea and Samaria, and attempted to allay their concerns about the reports suggesting a permanent peace deal with the Palestinian Authority would include changes on the ground in the Jordan Valley.
Alon referred to the rumored plan as "an unhatched egg," and told the group the Israel Defense Forces intends to maintain its presence in the Jordan Valley. He also said the Israeli military has been able to convince the American envoys, including recently retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, of its position.
Alon was referring to comments made Sunday by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Saban Forum, where Kerry said, "Gen. Allen is joined by dozens -- literally, I think there are about 160 people: military experts, intel experts and other ... highly qualified defense officials ... analyzing what began, frankly, back in 2011 as a preliminary analysis was made, and now is becoming state of the art as we ramp it up for this possibility of peace. They're all hard at work in close consultation with their IDF counterparts. And we will engage in further close evaluation with Shin Bet, with Mossad, with every aspect, and with the Palestinians – and with the Palestinians, which is critical."
Kerry's comments indicate that the Americans have been working on a security plan for Judea and Samaria as well as the Jordan Valley.
In a recording obtained by Israel Hayom, Alon is heard saying: "We have been involved with this issue since before it made headlines. We discussed it during the previous round [of peace talks], during [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert's government, in 2007. The recent developments in the Middle East -- the regional upheaval, the instability, everything happening in Syria -- it only helps our case. We are adamant that the Jordan Valley is a strategic buffer for Israel. We have to cultivate the strategic relationship with the Jordanians and create another 'protective vest' like that, and our position regarding the Jordan Valley is very clear."
According to Alon, "This was a rare case where we were able to make a difference, including with the Americans working with us. It doesn't mean that the process is free of tensions, as we have to deal with the Palestinians' demand for sovereignty and so on, but for all intents and purposes, this is an unhatched egg. Overall, I have little faith in the prospects of the peace process."
Last week, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud-Beytenu) also ruled out a withdrawal of the Israeli military and civilian presence in the Jordan Valley.
"The Americans are proposing joint control over the crossing points [into Jordan]," Danon told Army Radio. "From the Israeli point of view, there will not be any Palestinian presence at the crossing points. An Israeli civilian and military presence in the Jordan Valley is essential."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel would only accept the emergence of a Palestinian state if it was demilitarized, with Israeli troops deployed along the Jordan Valley.
And he has completely ruled out any transfer of security control in the border area to a third party. The Palestinians find the idea of a multinational force acceptable.