BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Jordan Valley is not "essential" for Israel's security, a former director of Israel's spy agency Mossad said on Friday.
Meir Dagan told a crowd of Israelis in Kfar Saba in central Israel on Friday that the issue of the Jordan Valley is a purely political issue, according to the Hebrew language daily newspaper Maariv.
"I don't like the ongoing argument about the Jordan Valley as an essential element to the security of Israel. This is manipulation and utilization of security considerations," he is reported to have said.
There is no Iraqi army, and we have a peace agreement with Jordan, so there is no threat on the eastern front, Dagan added.
Dagan highlighted that he was giving his personal opinion which he could not "prove definitively."
During the speech, Dagan also said that he believes Israel is not interested in toppling Hamas.
"I don't have a proof to what I will say now, but I have an impression that Israel is not interested in ousting Hamas, for a simple reason: I see that Egypt is exerting serious efforts to weaken Hamas, and I see that Gulf countries and Saudis are also exerting such efforts, while the state of Israel isn't taking part in such efforts."
"If I would talk about suspicions, I will say that someone could have in mind to avoid signing an agreement at the last moment. They will say, wait a minute! Who am I signing with? Am I signing agreement with (Palestinian Authority president) Abu Mazen? But he has an entity called Hamas, and with Hamas I can't sign!"
The statements come amid intense political negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority regarding the Jordan Valley.
Although the valley is a large part of the occupied West Bank, Israel has insisted that even if the Palestinians are granted independence as part of a future peace agreement, it plans to maintain a military presence.
Earlier this week, a parliamentary committee Israeli legislators voted to back a bill to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. Although unlikely to pass, the support for the symbolic move towards annexation reflects opposition towards peace negotiations with Palestinians.
The majority of the Jordan Valley is currently under full Israeli military control, despite being within the occupied Palestinian West Bank.
More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.
The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.