Ten things about the borders, bridges and tunnels of the Trump peace plan

No other state in the world looks so gerrymandered. It would be a state without an airport or real ports, and one that is inside another state – whose borders are basically controlled by Israel.

The Kalandiya Crossing. (photo credit: COGAT SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
The Kalandiya Crossing.
The "Vision for Peace" conceptual plan that has been put forward by the Trump administration envisions a complex series of roads, borders, bridges and tunnels to make a future Palestinian state These kinds of issues have been wrestled with for decades. In many ways, this is the descendant of the Oslo Accords a quarter century ago and the subsequent framework of different areas in the West Bank.
Over the years, many proposals have been made for dividing the land into cantons, and various other concepts have been floated, many of them half-baked, about roads that might connect Gaza to the West Bank or even an island off of the Gaza coast.
What does the plan look like, and what does it say about this web of innovative tunnels and bridges? The “Peace to Prosperity” plan is long – 181 pages, most of which concern economic issues. Here are 10 issues that stand out.
The plan speaks about an innovative network of roads, bridges and tunnels that enable freedom of movement. The tunnels will be state-of-the-art, according to the plan. It will include tunnels or a covered road that might link Gaza and the West Bank, according to the map. Others might link parts of the West Bank. The cost for these improvements is not expected to be paid for by Israel or the Palestinians, the plan says.
The plan doesn’t seem to elaborate on the longest of the “tunnels,” which would be a 34-km. tunnel or covered overpass that links the West Bank to Gaza. It would run from south of Hebron to somewhere outside Gaza City. This would make it the sixth-longest tunnel in the world.
Only a few countries have built such extraordinary tunnels – Switzerland, China, South Korea, Japan, the UK and France. Spain and Austria have built tunnels that are shorter. This shows that such tunnels are a major expense and that only the best countries have such experience. A covered overpass is something different, but even it has security concerns and will be complex to build.
It’s unclear how this network of tunnels would be built or who will pay for it.
Access roads
The map of the peace plan shows special access roads that will link some isolated Israeli communities in the West Bank. It’s not clear what these will look like, but they may resemble something like Route 443 that links Jerusalem and Modi’in. That would mean a road with fences, concrete barriers and security pillboxes along its length. Israel already has this in the West Bank; it would just have to improve these roads and isolate them. This envisions some 60-100 km. of access roads in the area.
It also envisions an access road from Gaza to various agricultural and technological parks for Gaza that will be built in the Negev.
Gaza’s new Negev industrial zones
The plan’s map seems to show the Palestinian state extending to large enclaves in Israel’s Negev that will be larger than Gaza itself. It’s not clear how these will work. If they are intended to be like the Erez industrial zone, then who will police and secure them, and how will workers get back and forth? This seems to be the kind of industrial project a Gulf monarchy could build, or China, but not the kind that Israel and the Palestinians will be capable of doing together. If it is under Palestinian control, it could threaten Israel – as Gaza already does.
Israel worked hard to isolate and blockade Gaza and cut off tunnels. Allowing two new Gaza Strips in the Negev seems strange. A more workable solution is just an industrial area for workers, which would be akin to various industrial zones in the West Bank. But will these benefit Gaza or Israel?
A port for the Palestinians
Until such time as the Palestinians develop a port, it appears they will have access to Ashdod and Haifa. Ashdod makes sense, and a dedicated Palestinian terminal could be built. How the Palestinians will have access to Haifa, where there is sensitive infrastructure, is not clear.
This is one of those areas that has not been thought through. If Israel wanted the Palestinians to have this dedicated port, then Israel could have already given it to them in Ashdod long ago. The plan also says that they could use port facilities in Aqaba, if Jordan agrees.
Border crossings
A system of border crossings will exist with Egypt and Jordan. The visibility of Israeli security will be kept to a minimum, apparently at the Jordanian crossings. A board of “overseers,” including an American representative, Israelis and Palestinians, will take part in this process. The map shows two border crossings with Jordan, one linked to Nablus and the other to Jericho.
Free trade zone
The plan foresees a free trade zone. It may use an airport located in Jordan; security measures will be put in place to “expedite economic cooperation.” Given the cold relations between Israel and Jordan, it is not clear how this will happen.
Dead Sea resorts
Israel and Jordan may enable the Palestinians to develop a resort area for the State of Palestine on the Dead Sea. It won’t prejudice Israel’s sovereignty over the shoreline.
Israel’s enclaves
Israel will have numerous small communities that exist within the Palestinian state. These enclaves appear to add complexity to the agreement. The concept is to make access to them efficient, and so that access roads won’t impede Palestinian freedom of movement. This may be easier said than done, since the West Bank has been developed by Israel for the last 50 years with major roads linking Jewish communities, not Palestinian ones.
This means that the road network of the West Bank will have to shift toward more Palestinian-run highways, with smaller Israeli access roads going over or under the Palestinian roads. This will shift the nature of the road network in the area, reversing the current system that is predicated on Israeli control and aiding access to Israel’s large settlement blocs.
Enclaves exist in other countries in the world. But they are usually in peaceful areas and not ones where people do not get along. That isn’t always the case, and Israel might try to learn from other conflict area such as Kashmir, Cyprus, Northern Ireland or similar historical settings.
Hebron will now be linked to Beersheba
The West Bank will shift in how it functions with regards to Israel. With Israel applying its laws, it appears the vision means that Hebron will be linked to Beersheba, not to Gush Etzion and Jerusalem. This will frustrate residents there and also lead to a new concept of how the West Bank functions. It is doubtful that Israeli communities will accept this.
Contiguity of the Palestinian state
Although the concept foresees a contiguous Palestinian state, it is contiguity in name only. No other state in the world looks so gerrymandered. It is a state without an airport or real ports. It is a state that is inside another state and whose borders are basically controlled by Israel. This could be compared to the situation of Lesotho in South Africa or the Vatican in Italy. But Lesotho is contiguous. The original partition plan passed by the UN in 1947 was also not a workable, contiguous state. It looked more like how East and West Pakistan were once disconnected.
These kinds of states generally don’t work well, especially given the fact that they have emerged not from peace and adoration but, rather, from a concept pushed onto them – in this case, onto the Palestinians, who seem to be rejecting it at the moment.