Nathan Jeffay reports:
It is the magic formula that could end the occupation while letting the majority of settlers stay put. But how would an Israeli-Palestinian land swap, the basis of President Obama’s Middle East vision, outlined on May 19, actually work?
The main practical problem of an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank is the fact that some 300,000 Israeli settlers live there. Not only would a full evacuation be hazardous for any Israeli government on the domestic political front, but it also would be logistically difficult and exceedingly costly.
The solution Obama talked about, one that is “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps,” means that Israel would hold on to some settled areas that it captured in 1967 and compensate the Palestinians with land that currently falls under Israeli sovereignty.
Even if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorses the principle, a problem remains. Every Israeli leader insists on retaining the large settlement blocs — usually defined at a minimum as the Etzion Bloc, Modi’in Illit, Ma’ale Adumim, and Givat Ze’ev and its surroundings — and the national consensus in support of this position is strong. But in Israel, many experts say there simply isn’t enough free land under Israeli sovereignty to exchange for them.