Geneva Initiative Tour for Diplomats: Proposed Border Solutions and Settlements - Myths and Facts

On December 13, the Geneva Initiative ran a tour of the West Bank area which was attended by over 30 members of the diplomatic community. The tour was led by Col. (res.) Ron Schatzberg, leading expert on border issues and a reserve colonel in the IDF; Dr. Samih al-Abed, Geneva Initiative Board Member and official member of the Palestinian Negotiating team; and Fatina Hodali, who advises the Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit on issues related to borders.



Looking at Nablus and the settlements surrounding it

The participants represented a range of countries ad international organizations, including the European Union, Germany, Ireland, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Jordan, Egypt, South Africa, India, the office of the Quartet and the office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
The tour focused on proposed border solutions, real and perceived settlement blocs and security and planning challenges. The group visited several central points in the West Bank, and examined geographical, security and planning challenges.
Looking at the settlement of Ariel
Ron, the Israeli guide, spoke about the some of the ideological, religious and political sources of today's West Bank settlements, and explained the difference between big settlements with primarily secular population, Ultra-Orthodox cities, mixed settlements and illegal outposts.
Samih and Fatina, the Palestinian representatives, talked about how the daily lives of Palestinians are affected by the presence of settlements in the West Bank in terms of their freedom of movement, personal security, livelihood, and ability to build and expand their own cities and villages. Samih also took the opportunity to talk to the diplomats about the need for the international community to promote the two-state solution, especially at this time of complete stalemate in the peace process.
From left to right: Col. (res.) Ron Schatzberg, Dr. Samih al-Abed and Fatina Hodali
Leaving the West Bank and driving back to Tel-Aviv, Ron pointed out that this tour demonstrates the feasibility of the two-state solution. "As you can see from examining reality on the ground, the problem is not one of geography. There is no real territorial challenge here. It's simply a question of having courageous leadership – one that is able to think out of the box and is willing to make real compromises for peace". Samih added: "I'm optimistic as well. I believe Palestinians and Israelis can be great neighbors if given a chance to live peacefully under two states".