Israel's Settlement Crisis: It's Not Too Late for a Two-State Solution

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Which settlements would be excluded from Israel if Palestine gains statehood?

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A Jewish settler walks near temporary homes in the West Bank / Reuters


Robert Wright attempts the Herculean task of refereeing between Andrew Sullivan and Jeffery Goldberg as they argue over Peter Beinart's settlement-boycott proposal. In doing so, Wright claims:

There are just too many settlements, interconnected by too many roads that restrict the movement of too many Palestinians, for a two-state deal to result in anything Palestinians could proudly call a "state."

I disagree. Wright confuses the number and location of settlements with the location of settlers. While he is correct that Israel has built settlements across the West Bank, most of the more populous settlements are located relatively close to Israel's pre-1967 borders (known as the 1967 lines). This means that the vast majority of Israelis who live in the West Bank -- between 70 and 80 percent -- can be annexed into Israel with only minor adjustments to the 1967 lines. This would allow for the Palestinians to have a viable and contiguous state. You can see this in the graphic below from The Atlantic's "Is Peace Possible?" special report:

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The reason I say "between 70 and 80 percent" is because how many settlers you want to include within Israel's new borders depends on how far from the 1967 lines you want to extend those new borders -- essentially, what you would define as a viable and contiguous Palestinian state (which is a subjective metric).

For example, the Geneva Initiative, a model Israeli-Palestinian civil society accord, proposes relatively minimal annexation in the West Bank (most notably leaving out the large Israeli settlements of Ariel and Efrat), totaling 2.2 percent of the West Bank; this which would include 71 percent of the Israelis living there.

One map offered by Rice University's Baker Institute proposed annexing 4 percent of the West Bank, including Efrat and a wider swath of Maaleh Adumim and East Jerusalem, which would allow for 76 percent of Israelis.

One of the maps proposed by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, can get 81 percent of Israel with only annexing 3.7 percent of the West Bank by including Ariel (a settlement that lies 18km beyond the 1967 lines and whose annexation, some would argue, would sever the contiguity and viability of a Palestinian state). Check out the Borders chapter of "Is Peace Possible?" to see maps and side-by-side comparisons of these proposals.

These are just a few examples of proposals made by outside groups and experts that illustrate ways for Israel to annex that vast majority of settlers into its new borders while still allowing for a viable Palestinian state. These possibilities may not exist for long, especially if Israel continues its pace of settlement construction. And there are many other impediments to a two-state solution. But I think it is inaccurate to say that the current size and location of Israeli settlements in the West Bank mean "it's too late for a two-state solution."


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Zvika Krieger is a former editor and writer at The New Republic and a former correspondent for Newsweek based in Egypt and Lebanon, covering most of the Arab world. More

Krieger has received fellowships to study topics including the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, the Kifaya reform movement in Egypt, public health in Bombay slums, religious identity in Kashmir, historical memory in Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, and the role of religion in Lebanese politics. He has also reported from such places as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Libya, North Ireland, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Korea. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Slate, New York, Arab Reform Bulletin, New Stateman, Chronicle of Higher Education, Daily Star (Lebanon), Cairo Magazine, Jerusalem Post, Christian Science Monitor, and various other publications, and he has appeared as a Middle East analyst on NBC News, CNN, Fox News, and Air America. His writings have earned him awards from the Overseas Press Club, the Scripps Howard Foundation, and the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. He is a fellow at the Truman National Security Project. He has a bachelor's degree in Middle East Studies from Yale University and studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo.

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