The Alpher Plan for Israeli-Palestinian Final Status in the Territorie
In November 1994, Joseph Alpher, then-director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, published a map of proposed final status in the West Bank and Gaza, backed up by detailed research. The Alpher Plan, as it soon came to be known, called for Israel to annex about 11 percent of the territories, within the framework of territorial and/or other trade-offs between the two sides. During the ensuing two years the Alpher Plan has become widely recognized as a possible basis for final-status compromise among both Israeli center-left and moderate right, and between them and the PLO.
Alpher's 1994 study came after the conclusion of peace with Jordan, and the outlook for an interim agreement in the West Bank, to be known as Oslo II, was good. The issues to be discussed in Israeli-Palestinian final-status talks had been clearly delineated in the Oslo Declaration of Principles more than a year earlier, yet neither the Rabin government nor the Likud opposition had thought through, much less presented to the public, its approach to final status.
What follows is a summary description of the original Alpher Plan, then an interview with Joseph Alpher, conducted in December 19%.

The Alpher Plan for an Israel-PLO Settlement

Israel's West Bank Minimum

Alpher argues that no Israeli government is likely to survive an attempt to withdraw from all settlements. He proposes moderate territorial compromise involving annexation of around 11 percent of all the territories, in which about 70 percent of the settlers live. The plan focuses on ensuring Israeli defensive capabilities in the Jordan Valley and the northwest of the territories, protecting Israeli water rights, recognizing some Israeli historical claims and reducing domestic tension on the settler issue.
This also takes into account the Palestinian need for geographical contiguity and a common border with the Arab world, and the water, territory and economic needs of any Palestinian entity.
In the following extracts from his report, there are four primary considerations in an Israeli withdrawal. These are:
Security can best be guaranteed by Israel's capacity to defend itself on the Jordan River, and separation of Jewish and Arab populations. Israeli control of the air over the West Bank, several electronic early-warning posts on the mountain ridge, and the effective demilitarization of Palestinian territory with regard to weaponry and formations with offensive potential, are all amenable to agreement, application and verification without Israel annexing territory and without reliance on settlements. However, even assuming that the Palestinian entity would indeed be completely demilitarized, the issues of Israel's defense requirements against threats from further to the east must, nevertheless, be addressed. Because of the threats posed by Iraq, Iran and possibly Syria, Israel will still require, for years to come, the capacity to move defensive forces to the Jordan River in real time, and without encountering physical or political obstacles. Moreover, it is still possible (in the event of domestic escalation inside Jordan) that Israel will have to rely on its own capacity to intercept terrorist incursions across the Jordan.
Turning to current security, our basic assumption holds that the mixing of populations - Israeli and Palestinian - is the single factor that most disrupts attempts (by both sides) to achieve security. Hence any solution that leaves enclaves of Israeli settlements in the heart of Palestinian territory is likely to constitute a source of friction and is a liability for current security.
Water. Long before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Jewish community exploited aquifers located underneath the West Bank, and international law - the Helsinki Rules of 1966 - recognizes such historic rights of usage. But international law also recognizes the rights of inhabitants of the land above the aquifer - in this case, the Arab residents of the territories.
Wholesale abandonment by Israel of its control over West Bank water resources could be disastrous for the country's economy, agriculture and ecology. Israel depends on these sources for a significant proportion of its water supply. Unmonitored Palestinian exploitation of them could deprive Israel of a large portion of its current consumption; irresponsible development and industrialization could contaminate what is left. Thus a final-status solution must ensure either long-term Israeli control over these aquifers, or at least reasonable joint supervision and development. There can be little doubt that exclusive physical control over water resources is safer for Israel than a joint water-sharing regime - even if Israel must inevitably ensure that the Palestinians, too, enjoy adequate access to fresh water sources. The principal areas destined for annexation are in the northwest and the Jerusalem region - areas that have been relatively heavily settled by Israel since 1967.
Demography. Considering that a very large proportion of Israelis would oppose a return to the 1967 borders, the scars that would be left by the physical and emotional outcry must give pause for thought. This would probably constitute the most traumatic domestic crisis in modem Israeli history. Thus, there is a legitimate place in Israel's calculations regarding a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians, for demographic considerations.
The Heritage Dimension. With regard to the pre-1948 settlements, such as Gush Etzion, that were overrun by the Palestinian fedayeen and the Jordanian army, it would be unwise to belittle the importance of such symbols for the viability of a people and a country.
Gush Etzion constitutes an example of a potentially logical annexation that offers Israel advantages in most of the issues surveyed above: it holds more Jewish than Arab population (15,000 and 6,000, respectively), enhances the security of the Jerusalem Corridor, and borders the Green Line.

Implementing the Plan

Implementation of the plan involves the following:

• Annexation of parts of the northwest of the territories that are heavily populated by Israelis, with the border moved eastward some five to eight kilometers - for reasons related to water security - along most of the line. An effort would be made to avoid annexing Arab demographic concentrations, and particularly Tulkarem and Qalqilya, whose combined population is around 50,000. This is done by leaving these towns, possibly with surrounding Arab villages, at the extremity of land corridors.
• Annexation of the Latrun salient, the Giv'at Ze'ev area north of the Jerusalem Corridor, and Gush Etzion south of the Corridor.
• Annexation of the Ma'aleh Adumim area, preferably as part of Jerusalem. The Ma'aleh Adumim area would be the deployment zone for a rapid intervention force designated to assist in closing the Jordan River crossings and defending the Jordan River security border in times of emergency.
• Annexation of a small area (Mutsavei Ha-Berech) south of Beit She' an. A second rapid intervention force would be deployed here.
In addition to security arrangements designed to ensure adequate intelligence collection (early warning stations on the mountain ridge) and Israeli control over the airspace above the West Bank, an Israeli military force - mobile and/or fixed in nature - would be deployed in the Jordan Valley and on the eastern slopes of the mountain ridge, on Palestinian territory. This would complete the security arrangements along the Jordan River security border. Israel and the Palestinians would agree in advance on the duration - 15 years at least - of this arrangement. The precondition for ending it would be the emergence of a stable regional peace and vastly improved security conditions.
• The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron would enjoy a special status that ensured Israeli and Palestinian access and usage.
• All remaining territory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be turned over to the Palestinian entity. Settlers wishing to remain would, at the end of a transition period, be subject to Palestinian authority.

Will the Palestinians Agree?

On what premises could one base an assumption that the PLO would ultimately acquiesce in territorial concessions? Israel could presumably cite to the Palestinians a number of justifications for accepting Israeli annexation.
• The Palestinians' requirement for an extra-territorial land corridor connecting the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. Israel could offer the Palestinians additional special privileges in its air and sea ports, which are well located for their use. These arrangements would not only enhance the economic interaction between Palestinians and Israelis, but would also constitute an Israeli sovereign concession - one requiring a Palestinian quid pro quo, presumably involving territory.
• UN Security Council Resolution 242, upon which the negotiating framework rests, allows for border modifications, and Israel's right to secure boundaries.
• Israel can make a strong case for its right to continue to exploit traditional water resources, particularly in the northwest of the territories, and to prevent their contamination by industrial and agricultural waste. These rights could be cited as partial justification for an Israeli demand to annex at least some of the land above the aquifers.
• Israel can point to the demographic balance in the northwest of the territories, along the Jerusalem Corridor and around Jerusalem, and argue that the Jewish majority created by settlement in these areas must be considered.
Another option would be to consider transferring Israeli territory to the Palestinians. Certainly it is possible that the offer of compensation to the PLO, like part of the triangle of Arab towns or villages or of Arab-populated Wadi Ara, or land adjacent to the Gaza Strip, could be seen as a politically important face-saving device that would balance more expansive Palestinian territorial concessions in the West Bank - precisely because it involves land from pre-1948 Palestine.
It may be cautiously assessed that there is a possibility that, ultimately, the Palestinians would accept a moderate territorial compromise - one that annexed territory to Israel where considered vital, dealt with Israel's important requirements through alternative means where possible, and held the scope of annexation to about 11 percent.
In return, the Palestinians would enjoy unfettered access to Jordan and Egypt, full territorial contiguity, a Dead Sea shore and water resources that would ensure that they and Israel would have to accept a joint water authority and fair allocation of water.
Moreover, Jordan's readiness - in the framework of the Jordan-Israel peace agreement of October 1994 - to agree to territorial swaps and Israeli leasing of Jordanian land may soften Palestinian objections to making similar final-status arrangements with Israel.

Interview with Joseph Alpher

Q: Has Oslo II affected the applicability of your plan?

A: Many observers, including myself, advocated during 1995 that the Israeli government refrain from giving autonomy to Arab villages that are intertwined with Israeli settlement blocs, in order to preserve Israel's freedom of maneuverability.
The emerging reality of Area B autonomy for those villages is not that different from some of the modifications and modalities examined in the analysis of moderate territorial compromise in the study. One of the basic premises developed in the study is the inadvisability of attaching additional Palestinian Arabs to Israel; Oslo II has now rendered that less likely. Another recognizes the possibility of developing varieties of shared rule in special¬ status regions, where the two sides are unable to agree on new borders. Those settlement blocs that contain autonomous Palestinian villages could conceivably now be stronger candidates for some sort of shared rule in the final status.

Q: Where does the Beilin/Abu Mazen agreement differ from your map?

A: They began with my map as a point of departure - but also with the aforementioned Oslo II compromises. The result was that settlements like Ariel were annexed to Israel, but as the extensions of narrow fingers of territory protruding into Palestine, rather than - as in my plan - within the bounds of fairly rational and defensible borders. The possible negative outcome of such an arrangement was very evident in the way isolated Israeli settlements, like Joseph's Tomb and Kfar Darom, were besieged by Palestinian civilians in September 1996. The Beilin/Abu Mazen map appears to have ignored such worst-case contingencies; the consequence of leaving isolated Israeli settlements defenseless could be devastating for a stable peace. It also ignored the territorial ramifications of Israel's legitimate water needs. I had advocated annexing to Israel a strip five to eight kilometers wide along the entire Yarkon-Taninim Aquifer in the northwest. It's interesting to note that the Third Way party's map also makes both these mistakes. Finally, the territorial compensation (the Halutza dunes in the Negev) offered the Palestinians under Beilin/Abu Mazen is not logical, because it's not contiguous with Palestinian territory and is not habitable. I believe that Israeli readiness to accord the Palestinians a "unity road" with extraterritorial status linking Gaza and the West Bank constitutes a much stronger Israeli bargaining card.

Q: Where does the Netanyahu government stand with regard to your map?

A: The question really should be: where does it stand with regard to the reality of Oslo II, and the obligation to negotiate final status? Even before the May 1996 elections, while some on the right continued to reject the new reality entirely, others - Netanyahu, Sharon, the National Religious Party - more or less acknowledged its permanency, and began floating ideas for final status that boiled down to a call to render the Oslo II map, with minor changes and variations, the map of final status.
In many ways, this was to be expected. After all, the Oslo II map is not very different geographically from the Sharon Plan. But Oslo II was acceptable to the Palestinians as an interim arrangement; any concerted attempt to make it permanent will almost certainly bring about the collapse of the peace process. Hence, since the elections, we have witnessed further stages in the fascinating evolution of Netanyahu's thinking away from the Greater-Land-of-Israel concept and toward separation. To my understanding, he is currently considering offering the PLO a highly constrained state in Gaza and the West Bank mountain heartland - something close to the Third Way plan. As starters, for negotiations, this is not bad.
But, just like Peres's idea of turning the entire West Bank into a special¬-status region, Netanyahu's current thinking - to the extent that it reflects a readiness to negotiate - appears to ignore the Palestinians' vital needs, as they emerge in the course of any inquiry or negotiation: their constant and consistent drive for a sovereign unit that enjoys territorial contiguity and integrity. In this sense, I continue to believe that some variation on the principles underlying my plan is the only mutually acceptable solution for the two sides.