Crowdsourcing an Israeli-Palestinian Border

A new interactive tool allows you to decide how many Israeli settlers to annex and what constitutes a viable Palestinian state.

Screen Shot 2012-12-06 at 7.30.01 AM copy.png This interactive lets you create your own borders. (S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace/SAYA/Is Peace Possible?)

One day after the Palestinians successfully upgraded their state at the United Nations General Assembly, the Israeli government announced "preliminary zoning and planning preparations" for a plot of land just outside of Jerusalem known as E1. Many were quick to condemn the move as a significant blow to the already-gridlocked peace process, perhaps even more so than other settlement construction announcements, since construction in E1 would separate the major Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem from Jerusalem. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon decried the plan as "an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution," while The New York Times declared that "If such a project were to go beyond blueprints, it could prevent the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state."

9-11 Ten Years Later

So does Israeli construction in E1 constitute a "fatal blow" to the creation of a viable Palestinian state? The answer is subjective, since there are no objective criteria for what actually constitutes a workable, realistic Palestinian state. "Building in E1 would not necessarily undermine the contiguity of a future Palestinian state," The Jerusalem Post editorialized, for example, saying that "an access road could easily allow Palestinian traffic from the south and north to pass east of Ma'aleh Adumim and continue northward or southward."

Over 500,000 Israelis currently live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in the territory that the Palestinians claim for their future state. Any realistic proposal for a final-status agreement between Israelis and Palestinians attempts to include the majority of these Israelis within Israel's new borders by annexing many of these neighborhoods and settlements into Israel. (The land annexed by Israel from the West Bank can be traded with the Palestinians for land from within Israel proper - a concept referred to as "land swaps.")

But since the location of many settlements were chosen precisely because they would prevent the emergence of a contiguous Palestinian state, their annexation would necessitate the creation of access roads, overpasses, "fingers,""umbilical chords," and "salamandering" around Palestinian cities to connect them to Israel. So even the most optimistic proposals involve some disruption of Palestinian contiguity (not to mention the fact that the West Bank and Gaza Strip will be territorially separated themselves).

So the real question is, how much contiguity is required for a viable Palestinian state? The conflict often boils down to drawing Israeli settlers into Israel's new borders at the expense of Palestinian contiguity. Minor annexations into the West Bank can be relatively easy to justify if it means drawing a large number of Israeli settlers into Israel's new borders. But how far is too far - and how many Israeli settlers are enough to justify deep annexations - are subjective questions.

There have been many attempts by various civil society groups, scholars, and negotiators to answer these questions by drawing their own proposed borders. A new tool created by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace and SAYA/Design for Change, in collaboration with The Atlantic, allows you to answer the question for yourself.

Presented by

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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