Israel-Egypt border fence 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One of the most pressing issues affecting negotiations between Israel and the
Palestinian Authority is the question of territory. Currently three major
territorial disputes hamper the possibility for a settlement that would result
in a permanent peace treaty. These include problems relating to dividing or
sharing Jerusalem, safe passage for Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank
and the problem Israel faces regarding its large settlement blocks (Ariel,
Efrat, Ma’aleh Adumim) in the West Bank. But what many commentators have not
examined is the fact that, historically, the territorial disputes here share
characteristics with disputes that were solved in Europe in the past
The strategies employed to solve border disputes in the former
Yugoslavia, and the Pyrenees between France and Spain, give some ideas as to how
these three problems that exist here might be solved. Let’s begin by looking at
On the border between Slovenia and Italy there are now two
large towns, Gorizia in Italy and Nova Gorica in Slovenia. The Italian town of
Gorizia was split in 1948 when a new border was drawn between Yugoslavia and
Italy at the end of the Second World War. About 20 percent of the population,
half of the infrastructure of the city, including the railway station, fort,
Jewish cemetery and a site of pilgrimage were all left on the Yugoslav side of
the border. The population that remained there ended up behind the “Iron
Curtain” and the city they lived in was rebuilt as Nova Gorica, literally “new
The border with old Gorizia was marked by a large iron fence
and people were unable to cross back and forth. The new city took on the
familiar style of building of the Socialist Soviet Bloc, while the old Gorizia
remained an essentially Italian city.
When Yugoslavia fell apart in the
1990s and Slovenia became an independent state the border began to become less
relevant. The fence was removed. When Slovenia joined the EU in 2007 and adopted
the Euro, all barriers to freedom of movement were removed and the cities
gradually reunited, although administratively they belong to two different
countries. Could this be a model for Jerusalem? Jerusalem was once divided
between its Jordanian and Israeli sides. Today it is one city.
of passage between Gaza and the West Bank has bedeviled policy-makers since the
question was raised in the 1990s. However other states have also faced these
issues of creating corridors for goods and people through other states. During
the Yugoslav period the province of Bosnia was landlocked. However when new
boundaries were drawn for the region in the 1990s Bosnia got a corridor the gave
it an outlet to the Adriatic Sea through Croatia. The corridor was nine
kilometers wide and led to the port of Neum.
The corridor results in the
pretty tourist town of Dubrovnik being cut off from the rest of Croatia. Those
driving from Dubrovnik, which is in Croatia, must pass through the Bosnian
corridor. Border control posts with guards check passports and regulate the
crossing. This presents some problems for travelers, such as Israelis, who need
a separate visa to enter Bosnia, even though they are only transiting the 9 km.
Although currently the corridor does not present a problem between the two
countries there will likely be issues with it when Croatia joins the EU, and
Bosnia is still waiting.
Can a similar “safe passage” be developed
between the two Palestinian areas without causing a problem for Israel? It
seems, given the right controls, that it could.
The problem of the
settlement blocks in the West Bank might be solved by a 17th-century model that
created enclaves of one state within another. During that period the border
between Spain and France in the Pyrenees mountain range was unclear. The Spanish
town of Livilla was left outside Spain, about 10 km. inside France. For 300
years the town remained part of Spain, in terms of law and administration, and
Spanish goods transited France to get to the enclave.
During the Second
World War, when Franco ruled Spain and Nazi Germany occupied France, the status
quo did not change. With the establishment of the EU Lavilla remains part of
Spain but separated from her by French territory.
Because of the common
currency and relaxed border controls the anomaly is not an issue.
settlement between Israel and the PA could make it possible for Ariel (and
perhaps Efrat and Ma’aleh Adumim) to remain part of Israel and omit the need to
evacuate its residents.
Ariel could exist as an enclave within the
Palestinian territory.The writer is a professor in the Department of
Geography at Tel Aviv University.