Defining Israel’s borders through BATNA

by Maskil on 3 Feb 2009

This is one of those articles that’s been open in my browser for ages, simply because I haven’t been sure what to do with it: do I adopt it, blog about it, claim it as my own, save it, print it, forward it, or all the above!?

Without attempting to paraphrase or quote extensively from the article, the essence of what the author (Ophir Falk) is proposing is this (skewed towards what I consider important):

  • Like any country one might care to name, Israel needs secure and recognised borders
  • Such borders are not likely to be achieved in negotiation with Fatah, Hamas, the PA, the PLO, or any other Palestinian organisation or body; there is, quite simply, no partner for peace
  • Israel should therefore set its own borders (after an internal consensus-building phase) and impose them on the ground
  • The approach is built around the concept of the “best alternative to a negotiated agreement” or BATNA. (From what I gather BATNA is usually applied to commercial rather than diplomatic affairs, but is seems appropriate here.)

To quote from the article:

The “secure and recognized” borders should strive for international recognition and be based on a simple criteria of Maximum Area, Maximum Israelis and Minimum Non-Israelis within Israel’s borders, limiting the evacuation of residents (of all nationalities) to an absolute minimum.

The article doesn’t get into questions such as:

  • If and how the necessary international recognition can be achieved
  • Whether any territories will remain under military occupation, without becoming part of Israel proper
  • Related to the second point, what kind of regime will prevail in the evacuated territories, and to what extent will Israel concern itself with this.

While the article is not a complete roadmap to achieving secure and recognised borders, it makes a good starting point for the debate.

Ophir Falk is a research fellow at the International Counter-Terrorism Center in Herzliya.


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