August 1, 2013 | Quote
Shift on West Bank Settlements Helps, But Raises Issues
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' indication that he would agree to land swaps with Israel to get a Palestinian state helps prospects for a peace deal but also opens the door to new problems.
Even after land swaps, tens of thousands of Israeli Jews may remain scattered in cities and villages that would come under Palestinian domain. Israeli leaders may also be faced with having to turn over land in which Israeli citizens of Arab descent currently reside.
In both cases, both Jewish and Arab Israelis are likely to resist what negotiators on both sides may agree to, analysts say.
Nearly a half million Israelis now live on the Palestinian side of the Green Line, which divided Israel from what was Jordanian territory in 1967. And about a fifth of Israel's 8 million residents are Arab Israelis, some of whom live in villages that straddle the old border.
Israeli peace negotiators are likely to insist that Arab villages that straddle the Green Line “are all going to be on the table and part of the discussion,” says Jonathan Schanzer, director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Israeli leaders, who seek to maintain a Jewish democratic majority in Israel see the transfer of the Arab villages and their residents to a Palestinian state as a way to deal with “demographic issues Israelis have been struggling with,” Schanzer said.
According to documents obtained by Al Jazeera, Israel's chief negotiator in the current talks, Tzipi Livni, demanded during a previous, failed, round of talks in 2008 that Palestinians deal on such villages.
“There are some Palestinian villages that are located on both sides of the 1967 line about which we need to have an answer,” Livni said.
But Arab Israelis in those villages are unlikely to want to lose the economic and political benefits of living in a modern and democratic state with a first class economy, or the ties they've formed in Israel, Schanzer said.
The questions raised by any proposed settlement “are always going to be extremely difficult,” Schanzer says.