Settlements and Boundaries: a Mutually Enforcing Relationship
Any attempt to understand the peculiarities of the Oslo II map and the division of the region into Areas "A," "B" and "C" have to take account of the location of Israeli settlements and the unwillingness of the Israeli negotiators to consider the possibility of settlement evacuation - partial or total - in what was still perceived as no more than a transitional stage on the path to Palestinian statehood.
The Israeli negotiators were unwilling, at the time, to deal with the issue of settlements for two paradoxical reasons. In the first place, any attempt to evacuate even a single outpost at this stage of the process would have resulted in vehement, probably violent, opposition from within Israel.
Secondly, the settlements continued to constitute a powerful bargaining ploy for Israel in the final stages of territorial negotiations. The more the settlements, the stronger case Israel would have made for keeping control of certain parts of the West Bank, especially those areas within which the major settlement concentrations are to be found and which are also in close proximity to the Green Line, thus allowing for possible boundary redemarcation. Both the Rabin and Peres governments refused to discuss the possibility of compensation for those few settlers who publicly expressed a desire to relocate back within sovereign Israel. Despite the fact that initial settler relocation may have created an important precedent for the Labor governments through which other settlers could be influenced to follow their example, the time was not yet ripe - as far as Israel was concerned - for this to take place. Any settlement evacuation, however voluntary, at that stage would have weakened the Israeli negotiation stance in the final phase.

Borders and Settlements

The question of future borders of a Palestinian state are closely tied up with the settlement problematic. During the century-long conflict, the changing geographical and settlement realities have played a major role in influencing the eventual demarcation of boundaries and the creation of political maps. This was as true of the role of pre-State Jewish agricultural settlements in determining the lines of battle set out by the Haganah in 1948-49, as it appears to partially be in the case of the West Bank settlements. In a region in which the political map and boundaries have changed on numerous occasions in only 70 years, facts on the ground have often proved to be influential in determining the ultimate territorial demarcation of the respective Israeli and Palestinian political entities.
When the Gush Emunim movement set about creating their settlements some 20 years ago, their avowed aim was to create a series of irreversible facts which would prevent any future negotiations to include the return of any part of the occupied territories to their Palestinian residents. The initial reaction to the Oslo I and Oslo II agreements was to suggest that the settlers had failed to meet their objectives. Territory was to be handed over to the Palestinian National Authority and, as such, had not proved to be an irreversible feature. It was seen as running contrary to the thesis of Meron Benvenisti, proving that everything was reversible if given the political will. And yet, at the same time, the central role played by the settlements in demarcating the shape and size of Areas "A," "B" and "C" have provided evidence to the contrary. The geographical discontinuity, the creation of numerous exclaves and bypass roads, the lack of compact territories for both Israelis and Palestinians, can only be understood by recourse to the settlement realities. All of Area "C," 56 consisting of nearly 70 percent of the West Bank, contains each and every Israeli settlement, large or small. The settlements determined the map of Oslo II.
All the proposals put forward by various Israeli groups and political movements aimed at translating the Oslo accords into a final territorial agreement prioritized the issue of settlement. In the past, additional factors had featured in the Israeli territorial discourse, most notably the question of those micro-territories perceived as having strategic significance, as well as the issue of the water aquifer.2 Achieving amenable mutual solutions to these latter two issues is no longer seen as being insurmountable, leaving the settlement issue as the single most problematic factor which would have been faced by the negotiators in a final stage of discussions.

Territorial Proposals

The linkage between settlements and boundaries was central to all territorial proposals of the past year. The Alpher proposal suggested that by annexing "only" 11 percent of the West Bank, Israel could avoid the need to evacuate approximately 65 percent of the settlements. The former Green Line boundary would be redemarcated, moving to the east, but retaining a clear line of separation between two political territories. Other variations were proposed by political groups like the centrist Third Way and the religious-dovish Netivot Shalom. All focused on the single issue of settlement as the main factor in redrawing future boundaries.
And just prior to the elections, it was announced that Peres had reached an agreement with settler moderate [sic] Yoel Ben Nun, by which any future territorial arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians would not necessitate the removal of a single Israeli settlement.
The proposals all had one theme in common: How to retain the maximum amount of Israeli settlements by annexing as small a territory as possible.4 It is an Israeli discourse played out by those who, so it would appear, are prepared to back the peace process and the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state, but at the same time are not prepared to face the internal strife and violence which will result from settlement evacuation. As such, for as long as a single settlement remains in situ, the settlers will have been "successful" in creating the facts which would have changed the spatial realities of the region - even if they had not succeeded in retaining control over the whole of the region.
The point to make is that the creation of new facts on the ground - be they Israeli or Palestinian facts - do have a role to play in determining political and territorial boundaries of the future. The 1949-1967 boundary was never recognized as an international boundary and, as such, was subject to change. It became a de facto boundary as a result of the role it played until 1967 in separating peoples, armies and territories. And, despite all Israeli government assertions to the contrary, it has continued to play a major role as an administrative line, a line along which curfews are imposed and territories sealed, a line beyond which most Israelis no longer travel, behind which Palestinian civilians are cut off from their sources of employment and which separates Israeli civilian law from the rules of the military occupation.
It is therefore quite logical that the Palestinian claim to the whole of the West Bank should be determined by the one boundary that existed ¬however short the period of time was. It is something which is recognizable and which, more than any other territorial demarcator, symbolizes the area of occupation. For many Palestinians it is not enough - for many Israelis it is too much and, as such, it could be forcefully argued that it constitutes an optimal line of territorial compromise.
But there is a chance to draw a better line, one which maximizes the degree of separation to an extent which was not met by the 1948-49 realities. This means accepting a quid pro quo in which an equal amount of territory annexed by Israel - be it for security, settlement or other purposes - be exchanged for land in other parts of the region. This could mean extending the Palestinian territory northward into the Wadi Ara region or southward into the Dahariyah and Sussiyah regions. These areas, while not altogether empty of population, are more sparsely inhabited than the center of the country and, as such, have greater potential for future development and repopulation of refugees.
The fact that such a scenario is unacceptable to any Israeli negotiator is, of course, due to the fact that Israel- as dominant power in the peace process¬- sets the negotiating agenda. For Israel, the "Green Line" represents maximum concession, one which in their view cannot be met owing to the settlement realities. For Israel, the territory to be conceded can only be less than that encompassed by the "Green Line." For Palestinians, however, anything less than the whole area is equally unthinkable. Thus the options are clear: Either the default boundary which existed until 1967 with all that means for settlement evacuation, or alternately a quid pro quo based on the principle of territorial reciprocity and exchange.

Separation and Sharing

Territorial post-modernists would have us believe that boundaries are a feature of the past. In their view, ethno-territorial conflicts must be solved by sharing space, granting multi-identities and citizenship - in short, a binational state on a single territory. Unfortunately, recent history has taught us that the modern state cannot fU'1ction effectively if it has to share space between two sovereign entities. The existence of exclaves, safe passages, bypass roads, territorial corridors, "cross" citizenship and the like are the instant recipe for political instability and short-term disaster. The post-modern discourse is irrelevant to those societies still undergoing ethno-territorial conflict. Palestinians and Israelis, Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims, as well as Cypriot Greeks and Turks, all desire separate, exclusive and compact territories. Decades of violence, hatred and mutual mistrust do not facilitate the sharing of space just because there is a piece of paper labeled a "peace agreement," They desire to have the "other" group out of sight and mind. Group exclusivity gives rise to spatial exclusivity and residential segregation. As has already been proved in the short history of the Oslo agreements, the current stage of conflict resolution requires territorial separation rather than shared spaces. It may, indeed, be an unfortunate comment on the ability of Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, to live together, but it reflects the very real animosities, mutual suspicions and, in many cases, hatred, held by each for the other. And in order to achieve that objective, boundaries have to be demarcated as a means by which official sanction is afforded the notion of separation.
It is too early at this stage to know exactly what the Likud government has in store for renewed settlement policy throughout the West Bank (and perhaps even in the Gush Qatif region in the Gaza Strip). Early indications would suggest that there will be a powerful lobby on the part of the settlement movement to undertake rapid settlement expansion ¬not only the consolidation of existing communities and townships as has been the case during the past ten years, including the period of the Rabin government - but also the establishment of new communities in, as yet, uncolonized locations. Beyond the international strife that this will create for Israel, including the worsening of relations with the USA, expansion of the settlement network will, once again, be responsible for the creation of new facts on the ground and new geographical realities.
The current situation is, in reality, a dream situation for the Likud government. They are inheriting a transitional stage in which Israel has absolved itself of the direct responsibility for the welfare of virtually all the Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza, while at the same time retaining control of most of the territory. They have created new territorial ghettos which will be unable to survive in the long-term. It is highly probable that a renewed settlement policy on the part of the Likud government will attempt to transform this transitional stage into a permanent stage by creating new settlements in much of Areas "c." Such activity will take place on the margins of the main settlement concentrations, particularly in the west of the region, in an attempt to further expand the territorial contiguity of the area which will be claimed by Israel in future negotiations - if and when they are ever to take place.


1. See: A. Kellerman, Society and Settlement (SUNY Press: Albany, 1993); D. Newman, "Civilian and Military Presence as Strategies of Territorial Control: the Arab-Israel Conflict," Political Geography Quarterly, 8(3), 1989, pp. 215-227.
2. C. Falah and D. Newman, "The Spatial Manifestation of Threat: Israelis and Palestinians Seek a 'Cood' Border," Political Geography Quarterly, 14(8), 1995, pp. 689-706; D. Newman, "Towards Peace in the Middle East: the Formation of State Territories in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," Geography, 1994, pp. 263-268.
3. Y. Alpher, Borders and Settlements. Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University.
4. D. Newman, "Territorial Discontinuity and Palestinian Autonomy: Implementing the Oslo II Agreement," Boundary and Security Bulletin, 3(4),1995-96, pp. 75-85; "Shared Spaces - Separate Spaces: the Israeli-Palestine Peace Process," Geojournal, 1996, Vol 39(4).
5. D. Newman, "Boundaries in Flux: the Green Line Boundary between Israel and the West Bank," Boundary and Territory Briefing, 1 (7), 1995, p. 52.
6. B. Morris, The Border Wars (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1992).
7. G. Falah, "The 1948 Israeli-Palestinian War and Its Aftermath: the Transformation and De-Signification of Palestine's Cultural Landscape," Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol 86(2), pp. 256-285.
8. S. Reichmann, "Partition and Transfer: Crystallization of the Settlement Map of Israel Following the War of Independence, 1948-1950," in R. Kark (ed.), The Land That Became Israel (New Haven: Yale University Press), 1990.
9. M. Brawer, "The 'Green Line': Functions and Impacts of an Israeli-Arab Superimposed Boundary," in Carl Grundy-Warr (ed.), International Boundaries and Boundary Conflict Resolution (International Boundaries Research Unit, Durham, 1990), pp. 63-74.