Considering the Legality of Israel’s Annexation of the Jordan Valley


Debate in Jerusalem heats up over whether or not Israel has the legal right under int’l law to annex portions of the Promised Land.

By Israel Today Staff


With last week’s ministerial vote to being the process of annexing the Jordan Valley, Israeli media has been more vigorously than ever debating the Jewish state’s right to unilaterally lay claim to territory.

On the Legality of Annexing the Jordan Valley


Israel’s only previous act of annexation of a previously sovereign territory involved the Golan Heights. That act, which Israel did not technically define as annexation, has been rejected by the international community, but has become a de facto reality on the ground.

Of course, the Jordan Valley presents a different problem. Since the end of World War I, the Jordan Valley has not been the recognized sovereign territory of any national entity. Essentially, Israel took control of a territory that belonged to no one, at least at a national level.

On top of that, Israel seized the area in a defensive military action, which in the past was recognized internationally as an acceptable way of obtaining territory. And, perhaps most importantly, the Jordan Valley was part of the territory originally earmarked by the international community in 1920 for a future Jewish state. The world powers initially intended for the Jordan Valley to be part of Israel.

Of course, for Bible-believers, there is a deeper aspect to the argument: the Jordan Valley is very clearly part of the land promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as a perpetual possession. Nevertheless, Israeli leaders insist they must also be able to successfully argue their claims from a legal and historical point of view.

The Jerusalem Post has a good, concise overview of the two sides of this argument. See Below:
View original Israel Today publication (Of above post) at:

View original Jerusalem Post publication (of below post) at:



Analysis: Can Israel’s Knesset annex the Jordan Valley under int’l law?




The question of what international law would say if Israel annexed the Jordan Valley can be considered quite hypothetical.

Print Edition

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

The chances are that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not permit this to happen on his watch, certainly not as long as he is at least trying to work with the US on the Iran and Palestinian issues.

Still, with Sunday’s Ministerial Committee approval of annexing the Jordan Valley, however symbolic and nonbinding the vote was as compared to a Knesset vote, the issue is much less theoretical than it had been.

It is easier to view the issue from the perspective of past annexations, such as the 1981 Golan Heights Law which extended Israeli law to the area (though it did not formally use the word “annex”).

Formally, most legal commentators agree that international law does not recognize Israel’s annexations of the Golan and consider it “occupied.”

The two main reasons are the general principle that territory after a conflict can be newly acquired only through a peace treaty, and UN Security Council Resolution 497, which said that Israel’s actions to change the Golan’s status were “null and void with no effect.”

However, there are commentators who counter that until recent history, no one disputed acquiring territory through winning a war, and that even more recently, some recognize a right to acquire territory in war where the other side was the aggressor.

While whether Israel or Egypt was the initial aggressor in the 1967 War is hotly debated, there is even more nuance to the debate regarding Syria and Jordan, since initially Israel attacked only Egypt.

These commentators buttress Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights with reference to the San Remo Declaration of 1920 as including the area within the British Mandate and interpreting UN Resolution 242’s reference to “secure and recognized boundaries” to give Israel the right to somewhat alter the Green Line (which would not have included the Golan in Israel) to ensure its security.

Essentially, all of the above arguments, both for and against, can be made regarding the Jordan Valley, with two wrinkles.

Those supporting annexation might try to argue that at worst, Jordan, like Syria, attacked Israel first in 1967, but at best, the Jordan Valley was part of the Israeli-Palestinian disputed areas in which, unlike the Golan which had been under Syrian sovereignty, there really was no prior sovereign Palestinian country in control of the territory, to which it would now have to be returned.

Unlike the Golan, the Jordan Valley can be said to be part of the Oslo process (in which it was categorized as Area C, remaining under Israeli control at least until later negotiation stages) and its successor talks.

This means that those against annexation may be able to argue that Israel is prohibited by Oslo from acquiring or annexing it outside of negotiations (whereas to date there are no even interim agreements with Syria).

Ultimately, the ministerial vote may merely have been a stunt to strengthen Netanyahu’s insistence on keeping Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley even if Israel grants sovereignty to the Palestinians, but should Israel follow through on annexation, international legal opposition and nonrecognition would be nearly unanimous.