Netanyahu: Israel must hold Jordan River line

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 18, 2011 4:40 PM

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday the upheaval in the Arab world underscored the need to keep Israeli forces along the Jordan River, the likely eastern border of a future Palestinian state.

"Our security border is here, on the Jordan (River)," Netanyahu, reaffirming a longstanding policy, told reporters during a visit to the Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Noting the turmoil in the Middle East and what he described as the "political and security earthquake" it had caused, the right-wing leader said Israel more than ever had to make sure "solid security foundations" would remain in place.

"Therefore, in any future situation, and in any future agreement, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) must stay here, deployed along the length of the Jordan (River). It is the insurance policy for the State of Israel," Netanyahu said.

Palestinian leaders have rejected Netanyahu's demand that a peace deal include a long-term Israeli military presence on the eastern frontier of the state they hope to establish in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu said "terrorists, missiles and rockets" would enter the West Bank and threaten Israel if the Jordan River security line was breached.

Monday, an Israeli official said Netanyahu was formulating a "phased approach" plan aimed at breaking a diplomatic deadlock with the Palestinians.

The official did not elaborate, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted in an interview in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday as saying Netanyahu might propose a Palestinian state with temporary borders, an idea Palestinian leaders reject.

U.S.-backed peace negotiations that began in September froze within weeks after Netanyahu refused to extend a partial moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements. Netanyahu accused the Palestinians of setting preconditions for talks.

Palestinians fear the settlements, deemed illegal by the World Court, will deny them a viable state.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Michael Roddy)