Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon / FLASH90
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a tour of the Jordan Valley, July 28, 2009.

Likud officials on Wednesday claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approached the White House to get a green light to advance the application of Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, before the March 2 election and even before the publication of President Donald Trump’s Plan of the Century, Reshet Bet radio reported.

According to the same Likud officials, that’s the reason Netanyahu did not announce Tuesday night, during the launch of the Likud election campaign, that he intends to submit a sovereignty over the Jordan River bill to a Knesset vote next week.

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The Prime Minister’s Office chose not to comment on this report.

Israeli jurists disagree over whether Netanyahu has the legal right to annex the Jordan Valley, even if he gets permission from Washington. Israeli law does not explicitly limit the powers of a transitional government, but the Supreme Court has ruled that such a government, which does not enjoy the confidence of the Knesset, is compelled to “restrain the exercising of its powers over all matters which are not especially crucial or urgent during the transition period.”

The last time Netanyahu’s government has won the voter’s confidence was on March 17, 2015, nearly five years ago.

On the other hand, in 2008, the Attorney General and the Supreme Court President argued, contrary to the position of then justice minister Daniel Friedman, that it would be inappropriate to appoint new judges under a transitional government. The matter was referred to the High Court of Justice, but the latter refused to intervene in the decision.

However, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz in 2008 ruled that a transitional government is allowed to negotiate international agreements, which supports government’s power to submit an annexation proposal to a Knesset vote.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett addressed the issue in a tweet Wednesday: “The talk of applying sovereignty in the Jordan Valley, Samaria and Judea is welcome. But for now it’s just that, talk. I urge the prime minister to submit a sovereignty order to a government vote this Sunday, and then submit the same order to the Knesset approval on Tuesday. Only actual action will count.”

Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman posted on Facebook: “Mr. Prime Minister, now it’s clearer than ever before that you have nothing to do with either the right nor the left. You care about the Jordan valley like you care about garlic shells (it’s a Hebrew idiom, let it go). The only thing that interests you is immunity (from prosecution for three criminal indictments – DI). We submitted a bill on the same matter, and both Likud and Blue&White killed it together.”

Liberman added: “If applying sovereignty is so important and urgent to you, I have a suggestion for you: copy and paste our bill and get it passed in three readings in one day, the way Menachem Begin passed the Golan Heights Law at the time. Or, if it’s really urgent, pass a government decree and get the Knesset to ratify it.”

“While you’re at it, I urge you to apply sovereignty to Ma’aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, Givat Ze’ev and Ariel, and maybe you will finally evacuate [the illegal Arab shantytowns of] Khan al-Ahmar and Susiya while you’re at it.”

MK Ayelet Shaked told Reshet Bet on Wednesday that the initial idea came from her partner in Yamina, transport minister Bezalel Smotrich. She then argued: There is now a sympathetic and supportive regime in the United States – we must take advantage of this opportunity. Blue&White should join us, too. There’s a political opportunity. A once in a lifetime chance.”

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