Faced with the American "peace plan", the depression of the Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley

General view as seen from the Aravot Ha-Yarden Regional Council, with farm plantations in the background, Yordan Valley, West Bank, February 04, 2020.

Corinna Kern for "Le Monde"


Posted today at 11:16 a.m., updated at 11:23 a.m.

At the end of January, David Elhayani thought his time had finally come. This representative of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank accompanied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington. In a pink and green living room of Blair House, the residence of the White House hosts, they awaited the unveiling of the American "vision" for an Israeli-Palestinian "peace". Never did Mr. Elhayani, a farmer from Argaman, a town in the Jordan Valley, see the Prime Minister "So happy, so lively".

Representative of the Israeli West Bank settlements, David Elhayani, February 4, 2020.
Representative of the Israeli West Bank settlements, David Elhayani, February 4, 2020. Corinna Kern for "Le Monde"

On January 28, a few steps away, in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Netanyahu thanked Mr. Trump for his recognition of the "Sovereignty" Israel on the Jordan Valley and all the settlements in Cijsordania, conquered after the military victory of 1967. In the evening, he planned to examine a decree of annexation as of February 2, and David Elhayani let burst his joy.

An act of faith

Then came the retreat. The American calls for patience, expressed by the son-in-law of the American president, Jared Kushner. "They stabbed Netanyahu in the back", stormed Mr. Elhayani, Tuesday, February 4, back in his office of the regional council of the Jordan Valley. On the phone, he admonished the head of the Israeli parliament, Yuli Edelstein (Likoud, right): "Now the annexation is done. Bibi should tell Trump that this deal must go in the trash. Without sovereignty, it has no meaning for the Jews! "

That afternoon, ultranationalist and messianic right-wing leaders gathered outside the prime minister's office in Jerusalem. They intended to push him to annex the colonies the day after the legislative elections, the third in a year, scheduled for March 2. But after the American retreat, the heart is not there.

David Elhayani heads the council of Yesha, a largely religious settler association, for which annexation is an act of faith. It would proclaim Israeli sovereignty from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. Settled here as early as the 1980s, his boss, a lay person, more readily cites the Israeli military doctrine, aged but still active, which makes the Jordan Valley a buffer zone facing neighboring Jordan. A chain of army bases and settlements, built in 1968, must guarantee Israel’s security on its eastern border.

However, for the army itself, as for some of the Jordanian settlers, annexation would not be without risk. It would upset the balance prevailing in the valley, where barely 8,000 to 10,000 Israeli settlers and 65,000 Palestinians coexist, mostly in "Zone C" under military administration. "The annexation would not change anything in our daily life. Why risk harming ourselves? " questions Gil Rosenblum, 35, who grows organic herbs and dates in Naama, and raises exotic fish, which he ships to Sweden.


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