JERUSALEM : Israel will build a security fence on the border with Jordan, a report said on Sunday, enraging Palestinians ahead of talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Israel has long stated that it seeks to retain a long-term military presence along the Jordan Valley, which the Palestinians vigorously oppose.
On Sunday morning, Israeli newspaper Maariv said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “decided to build a security fence in the Jordan Valley”.
The paper frames the decision within the context of the “differences of opinion and the impasse the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have reached over military control of the Jordan Valley”. According to the report, Netanyahu will give the green light for the construction “immediately upon the completion of the fence on the Egyptian border”.
In January 2012, Netanyahu had told ministers he would “strengthen barriers along his country’s border with Jordan” in a bid to keep out illegal migrants, once the security barrier along Israel’s border with Egypt’s Sinai peninsula was completed.
A spokesman for Netanyahu refused to provide details on the plan to “strengthen barriers” or comment on the Maariv report, which was picked up by the official Palestinian Wafa news agency.
The spokesman of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas denounced the reported plans.
“The Israeli premier’s statements on building a wall in the Jordan Valley is only a proactive step to foil (US State) Secretary (John) Kerry’s visit,” Nabil Abu Rudeina was quoted by Wafa as saying.
Kerry will is due to meet Netanyahu and Abbas separately on Wednesday, in a bid to bring fresh impetus to peace talks between the two sides, amid accusations from the Palestinians that Israel is derailing the negotiations with fresh settlement plans.
The US secretary of state nudged the sides back to the negotiating table in July after a nearly three-year hiatus
Last month, Abbas warned that Israel would be to blame if the peace talks collapsed over its military control of a border with Jordan.
“We will not accept it, and if they (the talks) collapse, they (Israelis) will be the reason for the collapse, not us,” Abbas told the Baltic News Service during a visit to Lithuania.
Speaking at the opening of his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu reiterated that one of the two central components of a possible peace deal with “our Palestinian neighbours” was Israel’s security arrangements, “first and foremost that the security border of Israel will remain along the Jordan River”, without specifying whether he meant military presence or a fence.