Land swaps in a peace deal ?
Palestinian ‘moderates’ reject the idea

Published: 15 December 2010
Briefing Number 273

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Summary:  This Briefing highlights four recent statements by the leadership of the Palestinian ‘moderate’ wing firmly rejecting the concept of a ‘landswap’ with Israel as part of a two-state solution and a peace agreement. We quote the following:

- The Fatah Revolutionary Council;
- Salam Fayyad
- Saeb Erekat, and
- Yasser Abed Rabbo.   

The Palestinian rejection of pragmatic landswaps is just one element of their   intransigence on the core issues in the conflict.
It is often claimed that “everyone knows what a final deal would look like” namely Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting side-by-side with the final border close to the so-called ‘green line’ which existed before the 6-day war.   

It is further claimed that all the parties “understand” that the major Jewish settlements blocs would be absorbed into Israel, comprising say 6-8% of the West Bank, while certain land from current, sovereign Israel would be included in the future Palestinian state as part of the ‘land swap’, to compensate them.

But it is a misconception to claim that this is “understood”.  The Palestinian moderates do not “understand” it.  They strongly reject the idea of landswaps.  

Far from coming round to the idea of living with certain Jewish settlements, they are as determined as ever to oppose them all outright.   

The Palestinian position on settlements and landswaps

It is mistakenly claimed that the Palestinians are ready for landswaps, under which some Jewish settlements would remain in place, in exchange for land from ‘Israel proper’ which would be included in the future Palestinian state. 
People mistakenly claim that this position is “understood” by everyone.  But this is simply not the case.  In reality, the Palestinian approach to the Jewish settlements includes the following:

  • outright rejection of landswaps which would enable any Jewish settlements to stay permanently within agreed Israeli sovereignty (see the statements below in this Briefing)
  • international demands for formal recognition of the pre-1967 ‘green line’ as the final border of Palestine
  • insistence that all Jewish settlements violate international law
  • ceaseless vilification of the Jewish settlers, and denial of the Jewish connection to the territories
  • calls for the boycotting of settlement goods, notably in Europe    

Here are four fresh illustrations of the Palestinian rejection of landswaps.   

The Fatah Revolutionary Council, November 2010 – we’re not going to make a deal with “settler gangs….”

The Fatah Revolutionary Council is the senior decision-making body of Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority.  The Council met at the end of November in Ramallah, and passed a resolution totally rejecting landswaps, in which it declared that:
“Illegal settler gangs can’t be put onto an equal footing with the owners of the land and rights….”

- Reported by Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post, 28 November 2010
Salam Fayyad, Palestinian Prime Minister

Salam Fayyad is the Palestinian Prime Minister, and the epitome of moderation in the eyes of almost all Western commentators and politicians.  On 29 October   Fayyad took part in olive-picking on a West Bank Palestinian farm, as a symbolic gesture of solidarity with Palestinian farmers.  Journalists were present.

Fayyad spoke with a journalist from Italian newspaper Corriera della Serra. The conversation was later picked up by (among others) the main Indonesian news website Katakami, which reported that Fayyad said:-
“I will give Israel one more year of grace.  The settlements are illegal not because I say so, but in international law.  The youngest of these trees have deeper roots than the largest Israeli settlement…..  These colonies can no longer be there.  They are illegal everywhere; here and in Jerusalem….”

- quoted on on 29 October 2010

Beyond Images comment: This marks a complete rejection of landswaps.  And see Beyond Images Briefing 247 on the claim that all settlements are illegal

Saeb Erekat – we demand “full withdrawal…”

Saeb Erekat is a very senior Palestinian negotiator and close adviser to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.  Erekat has also reiterated the rejection of land swaps:
“Erekat reiterated the Palestinians’ rejection of any solution that does not lead to a full withdrawal from all the Palestinian territories captured by Israel in 1967….” [our emphasis]

-  report by Khaled abu Toameh on Erekat meeting with visiting French and American diplomats, reported in The Jerusalem Post, 8 November 2010

Beyond Images comment: this is plainly a rejection of landswaps, and the rejection of any so-called ‘settlement blocs’

Yasser Abed Rabbo – we want “all” the 1967 territories…

Yasser Abed Rabbo is a senior Palestinian official, and adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.  He is increasing acting as a lead spokesperson for Mahmoud Abbas and for Fatah.  Abed Rabbo stated publicly on 10 December 2010 that:

“The US must make clear that the purpose of the negotiations is to end the occupation completely and establish an independent Palestinian state on the June 4 1967 borders…..”

- reported by Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, 11 December 2010  

Beyond Images comment: again, this is a total rejection of a landswap. 

Some related Beyond Images Briefings

“Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law….”
(Beyond Images Briefing 247, November 2009)

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about territory. The solution is ‘land for peace’….” (Beyond Images Briefing 262, 15 July 2009)