How to Connect the West Bank and Gaza Strip

The Atlantic's new special report "Is Peace Possible?" is featuring multimedia presentations on the four core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Borders, Security, Refugees, and Jerusalem. These are complex issues, so post your questions in the comments section of each chapter, send them via email (to, or tweet them to us at @IsPeacePossible.

In the maps in your Borders presentation, you just have an arrow between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. How will they be connected? Have previous negotiations discussed this? Will the connection be part of land swaps?

9-11 Ten Years LaterDuring the past negotiations, the parties agreed in principle to create a link between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. (Bill Clinton referred to it as "permanent safe passage" in the 2000 Clinton Parameters.) According to discussions with those involved in previous negotiations, this territorial-transportational link will likely be a corridor consisting of newly-created infrastructure, 100 to 200 meters in width, and include a road, a railway, and means for running utilities such as pipes and cables. The Aix Group has offered proposals for routes and design of such a link. This RAND-sponsored report, titled The Arc, views the Gaza-West Bank link as part of a greater backbone of Palestinian contiguity and viability. ("Friends of the Arc," a non-profit devoted to publicizing the project, offers more information and an impressive video.) This 2004 Palestinian memo lays out their thinking on the corridor at the time (notably, under the title "Decidable Issues for Borders.")

Traditionally, Israeli leaders argued that since a Gaza-West Bank link did not exist prior to 1967, such a corridor (together with the use of other Israeli infrastructure such as sea and air ports) should count toward the land that Israel is swapping to the Palestinians. In other words, they argued, Israel did not have to offer to Palestinians an amount of land equal to the amount they were receiving from the Palestinians, since the corridor and other infrastructure would offset the difference. Over time, Israeli border proposals have come much closer to equal swaps, falling just short of it in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's 2008 offer, making the corridor-as-equalizer notion increasingly a symbolic issue.

Palestinians are willing to count the corridor as part of land swaps, but only if it falls under full Palestinian sovereignty. Israel vehemently opposes such concept, since it would cut Israel in half. It's safe to assume that ultimately the corridor will be at the sole administration of Palestinians, although not under Palestinian sovereignty.

Because final borders will likely include swaps equal in size without a need to creatively equalize them, the corridor could then figure into a different aspect of the deal: In return for allowing what is essentially a Palestinian road in Israel, Israelis could be allowed to use major roads in the future state of Palestine that would ease transportation between Israeli cities -- for example, Road 443 that connects Modi'in and Jerusalem, Road 60 that connects the Etzion Bloc and Jerusalem, Road 1 from Jerusalem toward Jericho, and Road 90 in the Jordan Valley that connects the eastern Negev with the Beit She'an Valley. Such are the arrangements are envisioned in the "Designated Roads" annex of the Geneva Initiative.