On the 70th anniversary of the ratification of the United Nations Partition Plan, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has launched a new website called “Settlements and Solutions” that seeks to use civilian satellite imagery to provide a better understanding of West Bank demography in unprecedented detail that shows that a two-state solution is still very much viable.
The interactive project is a first-of-its-kind, most up-to-date web-based geographic database that provides users interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with an opportunity to explore Israeli settlements in the West Bank. By detailing the geographic delineation of settlement activity, the tool demonstrates to its users the complexity in an interactive and visually appealing style.
Territory is not the only thorny issue in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but takes a central role among the fate of Jerusalem, security implications, and the status of refugees. The tool seeks to educate users about the situation on the ground, in order to enable them to judge for themselves whether the two-state solution is still a viable option.
David Makovsky, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who served in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of State in 2013-2014, where he was a senior adviser during Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, commented in The Washington Post, “It is not too late. Those on both the right and the left that rush to proclaim the death of the two-state solution due to settlement population growth are too fatalistic,” Makovsky said, adding that “One cannot be certain about the political will to make it happen, but 70 years later, there is — at least for now — a way.”
Approximately 85 percent of Israeli settlers, or 77 percent if one includes parts of Jerusalem that Israel captured in 1967, live on the Israeli side of the security barrier, in approximately 8 percent in the West Bank, in areas mostly contiguous to Israeli population centers. In numbers, it means that 556,000 Israelis live inside or west of the line and just over 97,000 outside of the barrier.
A fascinating detail is the changing nature of settlement activity illustrated by the new tool. Out of 139 West Bank settlements, just two—Modi’in Iit and Beitar Illit—now account for almost 30 percent of all West Bank settlers, with 69,000 and 56,000 inhabitants respectively and a growth of 46 percent over the last year.
In late 2009, Obama convinced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to impose a ten-month moratorium on construction in Israeli communities in the West Bank, which was intended to give Abbas space to negotiate. However, talks between Israel and the Palestinians did not begin until Abbas deigned to sit down with Israel in early September, less than four weeks before the settlement freeze was to expire. He then made it clear that talks would not continue unless the freeze was extended. That entire ten-month stretch led to precisely two meetings between the Palestinians and Israelis.
[Photo: Yoninah / WikiCommons]