The geopolitics of peacemaking in Israel–Palestine (2022)

Table of Contents
Political Geography Abstract Introduction Section snippets The political geography of peace and conflict A political geography laboratory: Israel/Palestine The symbolic and tangible dimensions of territorial conflict The dynamics of territorial change Borders and settlements: The impact of “facts on the ground” Configuring the territories of peace Boundaries, territories and identities: the structural impacts Shared or separate territories: the national–binational state discourse The management of boundaries Conclusion References (65) Political Geography Quarterly Political Geography Quarterly Political Geography Quarterly Geoforum Political Geography Quarterly Political Geography Geopolitics: Re-visioning world politics Israel’s boundaries The “Green Line”: functions and impacts of an Israeli–Arab superimposed boundary A treaty of Silicon for a treaty of Westphalia: new territorial dimensions of modern statehood Geopolitics Jerusalem—bridging the four walls: A geopolitical perspective The geopolitics of israel’s border question. Jaffee Center for strategic studies, Tel Aviv University Global geopolitical change in the post cold-war era Annals of the Association of American Geographers Gaza now: Prospects for a Gaza microstate Mediterranean Quarterly Gaza viability: the need for enlargement of its land base Israel’s place names as reflection of continuity and change in nation building Names Place names in Israel’s ideological struggle over the administered territories Annals of the Association of American Geographers The politics of planting: Israeli–Palestinian competition for control of land in the Jerusalem periphery Town planning under military occupation Reordering the world: Geopolitical perspectives on the twenty first century National identity and geopolitical visions The end of the nation state: borders in the age of globalization The politics of Jerusalem since 1967 Land fragmentation and spatial control in the Nazareth metropolitan area The Professional Geographer Living together apart: residential segregation in mixed Arab–Jewish cities in Israel Urban Studies Between city and suburb: Urban residential patterns and processes in Israel The end of the nation state War and settlement change: the Golan Heights and the Jordan Rift valley, 1967–1977 Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers A path strewn with thorns: along the difficult road of Israeli–Palestinian peacemaking Cited by (54) Palestine-Israel Sport tourism and peace: crossing the contested wall Recommended articles (6) FAQs Videos

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Political Geography

Volume 21, Issue 5,

June 2002

, Pages 629-646


The study of the Israel–Palestine conflict is a live laboratory for political geographers and this is reflected in a number of studies undertaken by Saul Cohen during his career. Despite the recent collapse of the Israel–Palestine peace process, the ongoing attempts at conflict resolution continue to focus on the territorial dimensions of the conflict. All attempts to configure State territories which are acceptable to both sides must take account not only of the tangible dimensions of boundary demarcation and strategic sites, but also the symbolic aspects of territory and the way in which such territories are part of the process through which national identities are constructed and maintained. Notions of territorial partition remain much the same as they were prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. However, the changing demographic and settlement realities that have emerged during this period have resulted in the creation of new facts on the ground which must constantly be re-fed into the negotiation process at any given time.


The world continues to experience rapid territorial change, as new states are formed, old states fragment, globalization affects the functional nature of boundaries and the territories that are enclosed within them (Cohen, 1991, Agnew, 1998, Demko and Wood, 1994). Two major processes have affected the changing configurations and functions of the world political map during the past decade. The first is the changing distribution of political power because of the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites (O’Loughlin and van der Wusten, 1993, Kolossov, 1992, Peters, 1999) and the onset of conflict resolution processes on the other, as in Southern Africa, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, the Czech Republic and Israel/Palestine (Darby & MacGinty, 2000). The second is the structural impacts of globalization, resulting in the flow of people, goods, corporate markets, information and ideas over state boundaries, challenging accepted norms of sovereignty practiced by the state within its territorial confines (O’Tuathail, 1996, Brunn, 1998, Kohen, 2000). The former is but another “new world order” (one of several during the past century), illustrating that the precise territorial configuration of the world political map is highly dynamic and not the passive outcome of political processes as is often assumed. In contrast, the latter is more structural, challenging the basis of the Westphalian state model and querying the nature of territorial sovereignty practiced by states within their boundaries (Murphy, 1996, Taylor, 1994, Taylor, 1995).

This chapter focuses on changing territorial configurations within the Israel/Palestine zone of conflict. The process of conflict resolution that commenced in Oslo in 1993 and which, at the time of writing, appears to have collapsed, was the most significant attempt to configure the territorial domain within which Israelis and Palestinians practice their respective, and separate, political power. However, while the basic issues of power, sovereignty and self-determination have not changed greatly during the past 50 years, today’s structural and geographic realities differ considerably. Negotiating a final territorial agreement must take into account these new realities, while enabling each protagonist to achieve the degree of separation and political sovereignty that affords them the status of “equal” (in the case of the Palestinians) or frees them from existential and other security threats (in the case of Israel).

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Some of Saul Cohen’s writings have dealt with political geographical dimensions of the Arab–Israel conflict. His study of the changing geopolitics of Jerusalem was the first of this type (Cohen, 1977), predating others by 20 years (Dumper, 1997, Cohen, 1993). This was followed by an analysis of the wider geopolitical issues of borders and strategic territories, as they would affect attempts at conflict resolution (Cohen, 1986). More recently, he has discussed the need to enlarge the territorial land base of the Gaza Strip as part of any final peace agreement (Cohen, 1992, Cohen, 1994). While most of his work in this area has focused on tangible political dimensions of territory, his work with Kliot on the role of placenames in strengthening control over territory and deepening man-land bonding through territorial socialization adds an important symbolic dimension to his work (Cohen and Kliot, 1981, Cohen and Kliot, 1992).

This chapter discusses the process of territorial change within the Israel/Palestine arena, focussing on the long-term rather than any specific event. Assuming that a final peace agreement is eventually reached, this will change the significance of the territorial lines demarcated, transforming them into international boundaries for the first time. At the same time, increased boundary permeability means that the future function of such territorial boundaries will differ from those in the past.

Section snippets

The political geography of peace and conflict

The transition from violence, warfare and active conflict to what are euphemistically termed “peace processes” requires a mind switch by the protagonists in their ability and willingness to recognize, legitimate and communicate with each other. The euphoria surrounding first agreements or public demonstrations of mutual recognition and handshakes is usually followed by periods of mutual frustration as former enemies force themselves into dialogue and to negotiate about such issues as territory,

A political geography laboratory: Israel/Palestine

There are few better live laboratories for the study of political geography and attempts at conflict resolution than Israel/Palestine. It involves the study of territory and territorial change at several spatial levels, from attempts to demarcate national boundaries between states, to control and ownership of resources (land, settlements, water), through residential segregation of Jews and Arabs in their exclusive mono-ethnic settlements and neighborhoods. It is an excellent example of how

The symbolic and tangible dimensions of territorial conflict

Territorial conflict has two dimensions, the tangible and the symbolic (Newman, 1999a). While the tangible element is central to resolve conflicts, the symbolic explains the deep sense of attachment felt by groups to the territory within which they reside and which is perceived as eternally theirs. Notions of ‘homeland’ are nurtured through processes of territorial socialization, which focus on the historical and cultural rights to specific territory. The formation of national identity is

The dynamics of territorial change

Political, social and economic maps are usually perceived as static or passive. However, the territorial configuration of states is continually changing, contrary to the general perception of stasis at any specific time. Mental images of the world political map are often rooted in the period during which people first become acquainted with cartographic images of the political world. Reality is different, particularly when taking the longer term into account. The continuous changes in states

Borders and settlements: The impact of “facts on the ground”

While the symbolic rhetoric of historical rights and claims are central to the public discourse relating to conflict and conflict resolution, the tangible geopolitical realities determine the contours of a peace agreement. The establishment of settlements to extend territorial control and ownership has constituted one of the most discussed political geographical themes of the Arab-Israel conflict in general, and of Israeli activity in the West bank in particular (Harris, 1978, Hasson and

Configuring the territories of peace

The territorial question that will face Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in the future is no different to the one they have faced since the early 20th century—how best to divide the small piece of real estate between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River into two separate national territories (Falah and Newman, 1995, Newman and Falah, 1995, Newman, 1998). The debate over partition that began in the 1930s, remains at the heart of all attempts to find a practical solution to the conflict,

Boundaries, territories and identities: the structural impacts

While the practical dimensions of conflict resolution relate to changing territorial configurations, the structural dimensions are concerned with the politics of identity. The territorial dimension of identity politics, especially as it relates to the distribution of ethnic groups throughout a state’s territory, has figured heavily in political geography (Knight, 1982, Knight, 1994, Hooson, 1994, Herb and Kaplan, 1999, Dijkink, 1998). As boundary permeability increases, the precise course of

Shared or separate territories: the national–binational state discourse

The assumption underlying the attempt to find an acceptable territorial solution for the creation of an independent Palestine is rooted in the idea of a state for each people. The notion of a single, bi-national, state within which Jews and Arabs could live under an equitable power-sharing system has never been acceptable to a majority of both peoples. When proposed, before 1948, such notions were usually seen as academic conceptions, divorced from reality. While exclusive control by one side

The management of boundaries

Contemporary notions on boundaries do not deal only with the tangible dimension of configuring and demarcating state territories. It is as important to understand the changing functional impact of boundaries in an era of increased trans-boundary movement and growing boundary permeability. The world is not becoming “borderless” but the relative impact of boundaries as barriers is declining. Boundaries no longer hermetically seal peoples and territories, nor do they continue to determine the


This essay has attempted to address some of the longer-term structural significance of territorial conflict in general, and attempts at Israel–Palestinian conflict resolution in particular. Politicians, negotiators and diplomats often overlook the fact that territorial and geographic features of the landscape are dynamic factors in the process of political change. Yet many such conflicts focus entirely on the territorial issues. Solving these will have a major impact on the identities,

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    Copyright © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.


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    The agreement, officially titled the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (DOP), was signed on the White House lawn on 13 September 1993. Various "transfers of power and responsibilities" in the Gaza Strip and West Bank from Israel to the Palestinians took place in the mid-1990s.

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    The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is one of the world's most enduring conflicts, beginning in the mid-20th century. Various attempts have been made to resolve the conflict as part of the Israeli–Palestinian peace process, alongside other efforts to resolve the broader Arab–Israeli conflict.

    Does Hamas want peace with Israel? ›

    The stated goal of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is to conquer Israel and replace it with an Islamist state. Both groups reject the Oslo Accords and other plans for peace with Israel. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the two groups worked together to derail the peace process by attacking Israeli civilians.

    Why is Israel bombarding Gaza? ›

    Israeli warplanes launched an attack in the Gaza Strip targeting what the military said was a weapons manufacturing site belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian group that administers the coastal enclave. No casualties or injuries were reported by the Palestinian health ministry on Tuesday.

    Why has peace between Israel and Palestine been so difficult to achieve? ›

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    Who made a peace treaty with Israel? ›

    Egypt–Israel peace treaty
    Peace Treaty Between the State of Israel and the Arab Republic of Egypt
    Signed26 March 1979
    LocationWhite House, Washington, D.C.
    EffectiveJanuary 1980
    SignatoriesMenachem Begin (Prime Minister of Israel) Anwar Sadat (President of Egypt) Jimmy Carter (President of the United States of America)
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    Which issue presents a major obstacle to settling the Arab-Israeli conflict? Conflicting claims to territory.

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    Why is control of Jerusalem a major obstacle to peace? It is claimed as a capital by both sides.

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    Palestine (Arabic: فلسطين, romanized: Filasṭīn), officially the State of Palestine (دولة فلسطين, Dawlat Filasṭīn), is a de jure sovereign state in Western Asia. It is officially governed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and claims the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

    What is Palestine famous for? ›

    Uniquely, Palestine is a holy land in three of the world's major religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Jerusalem is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Islam. The Ummayad Dynasty built the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in the 7th century CE.

    Did Israel steal Palestine's land? ›

    Declaration of “state land”

    Israel has declared at least 26 percent of the West Bank as “state land”. Using a different interpretation of Ottoman, British and Jordanian laws, Israel stole public and private Palestinian land for settlements under the pretext of “state land”.

    What is the old name of Palestine? ›

    After Herodotus, the term `Palestine' came to be used for the entire region which was formerly known as Canaan. The region is part of the so-called fertile crescent and human habitation there can be traced back to before 10, 000 BCE.

    Why did Britain give Palestine to Israel? ›

    In 1917, in order to win Jewish support for Britain's First World War effort, the British Balfour Declaration promised the establishment of a Jewish national home in Ottoman-controlled Palestine.

    Who won Israel or Palestine? ›

    The war ended in 1949 with Israel's victory, but 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and the territory was divided into 3 parts: the State of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River), and the Gaza Strip.

    What is the conflict between Israel and Palestine 2021? ›

    The year 2021 was one in which Israel advanced ties with its Arab allies, while war broke out with the Palestinians. The Right lost government control in Washington and Jerusalem, but that dramatic shift did not necessarily empower the Left to make major changes with respect to the conflict.

    How much land has Israel taken from Palestine? ›

    Israel seizes 85% of land in West Bank: Palestine.

    Why is Israel settling the West Bank? ›

    Israel has cited several reasons for retaining the West Bank within its ambit: a claim based on the notion of historic rights to this as a homeland as affirmed in the Balfour Declaration of 1917; security grounds, both internal and external; and the deep symbolic value for Jews of the area occupied.

    When did the conflict between Israel and Palestine start? ›

    The Arab-Israeli War of 1948 broke out when five Arab nations invaded territory in the former Palestinian mandate immediately following the announcement of the independence of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948.

    When did Israel invade Palestine? ›

    Israel's military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began in 1967. Up to that point, Gaza had been (more or less) controlled by Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan. But in 1967 there was another war between Israel and its Arab neighbors, during which Israel occupied the two Palestinian territories.

    Who owns Jerusalem? ›

    Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, considers that "Jerusalem, whole and united, is the capital of Israel", and wants the City to "remain forever under Israel's sovereignty."1/ Its de facto control on the ground has enabled it to invest vast resources and efforts into changing the physical and demographic ...

    What treaty was signed with Israel? ›

    Israel–United Arab Emirates normalization agreement
    Abraham Accords Peace Agreement: Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations and Full Normalization Between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel
    SignedSeptember 15, 2020
    LocationThe White House, Washington, D.C., US
    7 more rows

    What was the first major peace agreements in the Middle East? ›

    Camp David Accords, agreements between Israel and Egypt signed on September 17, 1978, that led in the following year to a peace treaty between those two countries, the first such treaty between Israel and any of its Arab neighbours.

    What did Israel agree to during the Oslo peace accords? ›

    Israel accepted the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians, and the PLO renounced terrorism and recognized Israel's right to exist in peace. Both sides agreed that a Palestinian Authority (PA) would be established and assume governing responsibilities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over a five-year period.

    What was the implication of the Oslo agreement? ›

    Among the notable outcomes of the Oslo Accords was the creation of the Palestinian National Authority, which was tasked with the responsibility of conducted limited Palestinian self-governance over parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; and the international acknowledgement of the PLO as Israel's partner in ...

    What is the purpose of a peace treaty? ›

    Peace treaties, while varied, generally have one broad common goal: to outline conditions for permanent resolution of hostilities between two warring parties. To this end, peace treaty provisions tend to address common issues.

    Which countries have peace treaties with Israel? ›

    Israel maintains full diplomatic relations with two of its Arab neighbours, Egypt and Jordan, after signing peace treaties in 1979 and 1994 respectively. In 2020, Israel signed agreements establishing diplomatic relations with four Arab League countries, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco.

    Who signed the peace treaty? ›

    In a ceremony at the White House, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sign a historic peace agreement, ending three decades of hostilities between Egypt and Israel and establishing diplomatic and commercial ties.

    What started a peace process in the Middle East? ›

    The Middle East Peace Process was initiated in October 1991 at the Madrid Middle East Conference after an uprising in the occupied Palestinian territories (first "Intifada" in 1987) and the Gulf War in 1991 had triggered sustained shocks in the region.

    What was the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel called? ›

    The Camp David Accords, signed by President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in September 1978, established a framework for a historic peace treaty concluded between Israel and Egypt in March 1979.

    How many peace treaties have been signed and broken? ›

    Of the nearly 370 treaties negotiated between the U.S. and tribal leaders, Stacker has compiled a list of 15 broken treaties negotiated between 1777 and 1868 using news, archival documents, and Indigenous and governmental historical reports.

    What did Israel agree to during the Oslo peace accords Brainly? ›

    The peace plan saw Israel's withdrawal from Sinai and Egypt's recognition of Israel. The accords also pledged Israel to expand Palestinian self-government in the West Bank and Gaza.

    Does Norway recognize Palestine? ›

    Palestine has a diplomatic mission in Oslo, while Norway has a representative office in Al-Ram. Norway has not yet granted official diplomatic recognition to Palestine.

    What is meant by a two state solution to the Palestine Israeli conflict? ›

    The two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict envisions an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, west of the Jordan River.

    Is Palestine recognized as an independent state by the UN? ›

    On 22 November 1974, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3236 recognised the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty in Palestine.

    What did Israel agree to during the Oslo peace accords quizlet? ›

    In The Oslo Peace Accords, Israel agreed to grant the Palestinians self-rule in the Gaza Strip and West bank beginning with Jericho.

    How did the Declaration of Principles also called the Oslo peace accords affect Palestinians living in Gaza in 1993? ›

    How did the Declaration of Principles affect Palestinians living in Gaza in 1993? They were able to elect their own political representatives.


    1. Israeli Annexation in the West Bank? Scenarios and Implications
    2. Peacebuilding Through Tech: Lessons From Eurasia and the Middle East
    (Carnegie Live)
    3. The Art of Middle East Diplomacy
    (Chicago Council on Global Affairs)
    4. Thirsty Planet: How Water Can be a Source of Conflict or Cooperation
    5. The United Nations After the Iraq War & the Arab Awakening
    (American University of Beirut)
    6. Benny Morris on the 1948 Arab Israeli War
    (Jewish Learning Channel)

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