For Israel, President Donald Trump has been the gift that keeps on giving. Now Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is asking for another present: U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, a buffer zone between Jordan and the West Bank.
During a press conference on Sunday, Netanyahu said that in a phone call that day the two discussed “the historic opportunity we have in the coming months, including recognizing the Jordan Valley as the eastern border of Israel.”
On Monday, Netanyahu said the conversation was “very important for Israel’s safety.”
In addition to the Jordan Valley, “we talked about Iran … as well as a defense treaty with the United States — things we could only dream of, but now we have the opportunity to realize them,” he said.
He gave the impression that Trump thought favorably about annexation and a treaty. The White House confirmed a conversation took place but declined further comment.
A senior official of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party called Netanyahu’s annexation remarks “election spin.” He said “Blue and White supports annexation of the Jordan Valley only as part of a peace agreement but not unilaterally.” Later, Gantz rejected the idea of a defense treaty with the U.S. because it could limit the Israeli military’s freedom of operation.
Netanyahu’s latest push comes as Trump is scheduled to address the Israel-American Council in Hollywood, Florida, on Saturday, suggesting Trump might use the occasion for a big announcement.
The IAC, which refers to itself as apolitical, is heavily supported by Trump-backers Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The Adelson’s said last year that they’d donated or pledged at least $76 million to the IAC.
Both Israel’s right and left have pledged never to abandon the Jordan Valley, said ZOA President Mort Klein. “Publicly acknowledging that reality would be significant.”