The Palestinian push for United Nations recognition of independent statehood still has not resolved what land it would be on.
Since the start of the Israelis’ occupation of the West Bank in 1967, their steady construction here has accompanied any diplomatic talk of considering any possible two-state solution.
Today Israel presents a vision of interlinked Jewish settlements and separate Palestinian communities connected by bridges and tunnels.
Khalil Tafakji runs Orient House in Jerusalem, including taking care of its maps and territory monitoring. This means watching where Jewish settlements expand, and how land and natural underground water supplies are used in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Tafakji said: “Looking at this map we can see that Israel has cut the territory into three parts: northern, middle and southern. This is done in such a way that any Palestinian wanting to move between the parts must pass through Israeli checkpoints or by tunnels. Examples are between Jerusalem and the outskirts, and between Qalqilya and its surroundings, and Al Quds’ and Ramallah’s respective outlying areas.”
Israel has built four large settlements which loom before the Palestinians as a physical reality.
“If we as a state wanted to remove more than a half a million settlers living in more than 100,000 housing units it would be very difficult. Put another way, Israel has accomplished this and now it’s up to the Palestinians to find adequate solutions.”
The Palestinians’ idea is to exchange land. But this carries risks.
Tafakji goes on: “This land swap idea means Palestinians who are living in Israel might be expelled to the territories and Israel taking good land and siphoning the water.”
By Hebrew tradition, the land of Israel is considered inseparable from the Jews, something the Palestinians have always contested.