What Will Palestine Look Like?

Can real borders be set with 500,000 settlers?

The Washington Institute For Near East Policy has released a new report outlining three possible options for a border agreement between Israel and a future, independent Palestine. While WINEP is a prestigious think tank, it tends to bend much farther towards Israel than Palestine – an example of this bias is overt in this study, in which WINEP does not refer to the Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem as settlers. Rather, the settlers are referred to as the Jewish Community in East Jerusalem and those settlements are, in every proposal, annexed by Israel.

[tweetmeme] It is an interesting study and worth reading if you have nothing else to do, but it certainly does not reveal much. The maps are nice, I guess. What intrigued me about this study was not that it was novel (it wasn’t) or that it attacked the border issue from a new perspective (it didn’t); what caught my eye was the simplicity with which it made its claims. Here is a quick rundown of the three proposals:

Proposal 1

  • Israel annexes 43 settlements (not including East Jerusalem) containing 239,246 (80.01% of non-East Jerusalem settlers) settlers.
  • Annexed settlements include Ariel, the settlements north of Ariel, Beit El, Ofra, Kfar Adumin and Ofra which wind far into Palestinian territory
  • Including East Jerusalem annexed settlers number 428,457 or 87.76% of all settlers
  • 59,782 settlers would be left in Palestinian territory

Proposal 2

  • Israel annexes 38 settlements containing 219,223 settlers (not including East Jerusalem – 73.31% of such settlers
  • Isreal does not annex Ofra or Beit El, but maintains Ariel and the settlements north of Ariel, both deep in Palestinian territory
  • Including East Jerusalem, 408,434 settlers (83%) are annexed into Israel
  • 79,805 settlers would remain in Palestinian territory

Proposal 3

  • Israel annexes 32 settlements (not including East Jerusalem) containing 204,802 settlers (68.49% of non-East Jerusalem settlers)
  • Israel does not annex Ofra, Beit El, Ariel, the settlements north of Ariel or Kfar Adumin
  • Including East Jerusalem, Israel annexes 394, 013 settlers (80.7% of settlers)
  • 94,226 settlers would be left in Palestinian territory

They entire idea of moving people around the territory like chess pieces is in itself overly simplistic and would lead to myriad problems, inevitably leading to displacement. Moreover, the solution proposed by the authors to deal with settlers that remain in Palestinian territory is absurd. To their credit, the authors do note that leaving settlers under Palestinian sovereignty is a bad idea, yet the alternative is increased compensation for settlers to voluntarily relocate and better planning than the Gaza relocation.

Better planning, certainly, but after withdrawing 9,000 settlers from Gaza in 2005 – only a few left voluntarily – there were mass protests across Israel, spearheaded by 100,000 strong in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, entire IDF brigades openly defied orders and refused to remove settlers, leading some to worry that disengagement from the West Bank could cause civil war.

Not to mention there are, under these plans, between 6-9 times as many settlers that would need to be removed. It is highly unlikely that such an operation could be pulled off successfully.

Interestingly, Americans for Peace Now responded to this study in a cripplingly confused way. According to APN, Palestinians would not accept any of the three proposals set forth by WINEP – which are the most likely and best Israeli offers, according to the authors – yet somehow the study proves that a two-state solution is still possible. In other words, Israel presents its three best offers, which are subsequently turned down by Palestine. And this is proof that two states are possible. Not sure I quite understand that one.

Readers of the blog know that I support a one state solution and find the concept of two states to be anachronistic considering Israeli movements over the last few decades. This study, contrary to what APN says, only reinforces my belief that Israel and its US supporters have effectively killed the two state solution.

Photo from WN

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