Washington Institute unveils land swap proposals


WASHINGTON (JTA) — A pro-Israel U.S. think tank released proposals that would reconcile allowing a majority of the settlers to stay in place with a Palestinian state through commensurate land swaps.

The detailed proposal, released Jan. 20 by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, nods to longstanding Palestinian demands for a return to 1967 lines by adhering to one-to-one land swaps.

Under the proposal, 68 percent to 80 percent of settlers would remain in place, and the Palestinian state would receive Israeli lands adjacent to the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Desert and parts of the West Bank.

The significance of the proposal is its source: The Washington Institute maintains close ties with both the Obama administration and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and also is in touch with the Palestinian leadership.

David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the institute who authored the proposals, said he consulted with officials in all three administrations while preparing the proposal.

The proposal is aimed at pushing back against notions that it is too late to extract a two-state solution, especially now that that Israeli-Palestinian talks seem moribund.

"We endorse the idea that the impossible is achievable," said Robert Satloff, the institute’s director.

The proposal does not overcome all the obstacles, notably leaving aside Jerusalem and the status of Palestinian refugees.

Additionally, the Palestinian and Israeli sides have deadlocked over whether Israel would leave a security presence indefinitely in the Jordan Valley.

The proposal, outlined in three possible maps, allows for contiguity in the West Bank, but also thrusts Israeli "fingers" into the northern West Bank. It also anticipates the necessity of removing  Kiryat Arba, the home of thousands of some of the most resolute settlers.

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