The Border that dare not show its Face

It is commonly accepted that if a two-state solution is to come into being, Israel will retain sovereignty over major settlement blocs that hug the Green Line. This will necessitate a re-drawn border and potentially 1:1 land swap with the future Palestinian state.

The proportion of the West Bank that Israel would, could or should retain in such a final agreement peace deal is of course a hotly contested subject.

But just why does the parties of the left – or in fact any political party that apparently support the creation of a Palestinian state on 90%+ of the West Bank – refuse to put pen to paper to draw a border on the map? Such a map, the argument goes, would pre-empt political negotiations, be unnecessarily divisive, and ultimately presumptuous. Perhaps.

We would argue that refusal is a huge ‘own goal’ of the left. It fails to give ‘comfort’ to those settlements that will inevitably be annexed (Oranit, Modin Ilit, Alfe Menashe, Betair Ilit etc) distinguishing them and their residents from the more  ideological and far flung settlements deep inside the West Bank. In shying away from the issue it actually undermines two of the arguments to entice centrists (or indeed right-wingers) to shift left, namely, the creation an internationally recognised border and the consolidation of a Jewish majority west of the Green Line.

Free of such constraints we have drawn that border for you.

In ‘Border that dare not show its face’ we work in reverse. We first crunch a series of population settlement evacuation scenarios and then calculate the ‘optimum’ land bank withdrawal as a residual. If Israel were to retain an improbable 90% of the settlers and their homes, what would the redrawn map look like? If Israel were to retain just 65% of settlers, what would the redrawn map look like, and so on?

First, a little bit of historical re-cap on fateful previous attempts to draw that Map.

It was been widely reported that during the Camp David peace negotiations between Israel (Ehud Barak) and the Palestinians (Yasser Arafat), Israel sought to retain 9% of the West Bank (plus a 12-year presence on a further 25% of the West Bank in the Jordan Valley).

The Palestinians were willing to allow Israel annex 2.5%. The figures apparently moved somewhat during the TABA negotiations a year later, with Israeli demanding 6% of the West Bank (plus an additional 2% on a long term lease), with the Palestinians ceding between 3% and 4.5%. A decade or so later (2008), Israel, under Ehud Olmert, was re- ported to have ‘offered’ 94% of the West Bank, seeking to retain just 6%; the Palestinians (Mahmoud Abbas) apparently insisting on ceding just 2%.

Few of the maps generated during these negotiations were made public. The exception was the ‘non-government’-sponsored Geneva accords in 2003, whose map was actually posted to every single home in Israel.

The media, then and now, has tended t0 focus on these ‘raw statistics’. In a largely territorial conflict, discussion around where the actual line on the map may go has almost become secondary. It has largely descended into a numbers game.

We have drawn six different scenario maps of redrawn borders that allow Israel to retain 90%, 85%, 80%, 75%, 70% and 65% respectively, of the settler population. We then calculate the proportion of the West Bank that Israel would retain under each scenario or peace agreement option. In theory there are an infinite number of permutations and combinations facing such choices. In our calculations, our objectives are to maximise (settler) population, minimize annexation of (West Bank) territory, have regard to current location of barrier and minimise the severance to major Palestinian communities. Our population numbers for each settlement are from 2015.

 

THE 90% SOLUTION   (7.7% of the West Bank)

To retain 90% of all settlers, all settlements with a population over 3,000 – with the exception of Kiryat Arba (7,100), Talmon (3,700), Tekoa (3,500) and Ofra (3,200) – are incorporated into Israel. No settlement with a population of 1,500 or greater and located less than 8km from the Green Line is evacuated. To retain 90% of all settlers would result in Israel annexing 7.7% of the West Bank. The map shows a number of unavoidable tortuous-shaped fingers extending deep into the West Bank. These would inevitably and severely compromise ease of movement between Palestinian population centres in a future Palestinian state.

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How much of the West Bank would Israel need to retain if the following percentages of settlers remained in situ and Israel annexed the settlements into Israel proper? – (top – % West Bank land; bottom – % settler population)

THE 85% SOLUTION   (6.4% of the West Bank)

At 85%, the settlements of Beit El (6,000), Shiloh (3,400), Eli (4,100), Dolev (1,300) and Halamish (1,300) are evacuated. All are located at least 9km from the Green Line. All cur- rently contribute to the severance of Palestinian movement. The largest settlement to be evacuated is Kochav Yaakov (7,300). Kochav Yaakov and nearby Psagot (2,000) are both lo- cated north of annexed east Jerusalem. Also evacuated is Geva Binyamin (5,200). All set- tlements currently west of the Israeli separation barrier are retained, including three currently located east of it (Avnei Hefetz, Nili, Shavei Shomron). To retain 85% of all settlers would result in Israel annexing 6.4% of the West Bank.

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THE 80% SOLUTION  (5.0% of the West Bank)

At 80% the settlement fingers extending east of Alfe Menashe are all evacuated. These are all more than 9km east of the Green Line, but currently located west of the tortuously shaped route of the Israeli separation barrier. The largest are Karnei Shomron (6,900) and Kedumin (4,300) and Immanuel (3,250). The settlements of Nili (1,400), Migdal Oz (400), Kedar (1,500), Avnei Hefetz (1,700), Peduel (1,600), Alei Zahav (1,200) and Bet Arye (4,700) are also evacuated. To retain 80% of all settlers would result in Israel annexing 5% of the West Bank.

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THE 75% SOLUTION  (2.9% of the West Bank)

At 75%, the largest settlement to date in our incremental evacuation to be evacuated is the city of Ariel (18,700). Barkan (1,700), revava (2,000), Kiryat Netafim (900) all west of Ariel, are also evacuated. Ariel is located 16km east of the Green Line and the largest settlement located that deep inside the West Bank. Alon Svut (3, 200), in the Gush Eminin bloc, is evac- uated. The small and ‘isolated’ settlements of Salit (700), Hinanit (1,100) and Zufin (2,000), despite their proximity (all 3km) to the Green Line are also evacuated. The settlement of Mevon (2,500), located just 0.5km from the Green Line, is likely to be retained by Israel in any withdrawal agreement. We have chosen to evacuate it here because doing so would allow the future Palestinian state to retain the large area of the Latrun. This is not likely, however, as the main highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (route 1) actually cuts across the West Bank here. To retain 75% of all settlers would result in Israel annexing 2.9% of the West Bank.

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THE 70% SOLUTION   (2.1% of the West Bank)

At 70% the largest settlement in the Gush Etzion bloc is evacuated Efrat (8,300), along with Bat Ayin (1,000), Neve Daniel (2,300) Kfat Etzion (1,100) and Elazar (2,600), Elkana (3,900) Sha’arei Tikva (5,600), Etz Efraim (1,800), all less than 6km from Green Line are also evac- uated. To retain 70% of all settlers would result in Israel annexing 2.1% of the West Bank.

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THE 65% SOLUTION   (1.9% of the West Bank)

Finally, retaining just 65% of settlers would necessitate the evacuation of Ma’ale Adumim (37,500), the largest settlement to be evacuated. This would allow the retention of two thirds of all settlers whilst annexing just 1.9% of the West Bank. The 65% solution would include the retention of all the settlements in currently annexed east Jerusalem (excluding Atarot Airport). It would also include retaining the two largest Haredi settlements close to the Green Line, Modi’in Ilit (64,00) and Beitar Illit (49,000).

The two so-called ‘quality of life’ settlements of Oranit (8,500) and Alfe Menashe (7,600) would also be annexed by Israel. Both Oranit and Alfe Menashe, located just 0.5km and 3km east of the Green Line, effectively function as dormitory suburbs of Greater Tel Aviv.22 Whilst the Likud Party topped the poll in both settlements in 2015 Knesset elections, both settlements divided their vote between the centre-left (Zionist Union, Meretz, Yesh Atid) and the religious right (Likud, Habayit Hayehudi, Israeli Beitanu, Shas, United Totah Judaism) – Oranit 46% to 44% and Alfe Menashe 43% to 44%.23 Alfe Menashe and Oranit are also the two wealthiest communities in all of Israel proper (and the West Bank), where a plurality of voters voted for the Likud Party.

So how do our 90% to 65% settler annexation scenarios compare to the apparent number- crunching of Camp David or later negotiations?

Ehud Olmerts’s 6% offer is closest today to our 85% settler annexation map.

The Palestinians offer of 2.5% under Camp David would today be midway between our 75% and 70% settler annexation map. Of course, the absolute numbers of settlers and their spatial distribution was somewhat different in 2000 and 2007. With a potential incorporation of 90% of all settlers for 7.7% of the West Bank, the numbers perhaps give lie to the apparent fatalism of many of the doomsday merchants of the two- state solution. That 7.7% however includes tortuously shaped ‘annexation fingers’ that would result in acute severance of Palestinians towns and cities.

In “The Border that dare not show its Face” we simply endeavour to bring the mapping debate to a wider audience, an exercise recommended for every High School Israeli geography student and, indeed, every Israeli political party running in the 2019 Knesset Election.

So what border would you chose?

How much of the West Bank would Israel need to retain if the following percentages of settlers remained in situ and Israel annexed the settlements into Israel proper? – (top – % West Bank land; bottom – % settler population)

 

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