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Why the Israeli 'consensus' on settlements is not so simple

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Such an agreement would delineate where future development is permissible and where it's off-limits. The Palestinians would get an idea of the contours of their future state, and the settlers would no longer live in limbo about their future. It would also build momentum for more difficult issues like control over Jerusalem and the the status of Palestinian refugees.

"Borders are potentially the issue that most lends itself to early agreement,'' says Yossi Alpher, coeditor of the online Israeli-Palestinian website bitterlemons.org. He noted, however, that there are "notable question marks" around the border through Jerusalem and a settlement that juts deep into the West Bank.

Indeed, even if the Palestinians were to agree on the swap, deciding which settlements to keep and which to evacuate could expose divisions among an oft-invoked Israeli "consensus'' about which areas to keep.

Israel has said that it doesn't want to discuss borders until an agreement on security is reached. Some who oppose prioritizing an agreement on borders see the settlements as bargaining chips that shouldn't be forfeited early.

Main blocs in Israeli 'consensus'

Ever since Israelis and Palestinians began discussing a peace agreement in the 1990s, negotiators toyed with the idea of redrawing the border to include swaths of densely populated Israeli settlements just over the current border. It is believed that about three-quarters of the more than 300,000 Israelis living in the West Bank live on a relatively small percentage of the territory adjacent to Israel proper.

BRIEFING: Israeli settlements: Where, when, and why they're built

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