Mapping Solutions with Dan Rothem


2007 Rothem.JPG
(Photo Credit: Sam Sherraden)
From Steve Clemons: This is the first guest post from my new deputy director here at the American Strategy Program, Patrick Doherty. Patrick spent more than a decade working at the intersection of conflict and development in the Middle East, Africa, Balkans and Caucasus. More recently he ran the communications shop at the Center for National Policy and before that was national security editor and blogger at You’ll see more of Patrick soon on the Havana Note, as he’ll be directing our new Cuba Initiative.
Sometime in the next month, Annapolis, the quiet colonial capitol of Maryland, will play host to the latest round of negotiations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No seasoned experts are sanguine about the prospects for a major breakthrough and most are hoping that the episode merely does no harm. But this morning, my colleague Daniel Levy hosted another pre-Annapolis briefing that demonstrates that the problem though extraordinarily complex–is not so much technical as purely political.
Levy introduced Dan Rothem, an Israeli working with the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation. Rothem, whose trip was sponsored by USIP, has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill and to other policy types around town. His presentation is basic and yet complex: maps. Armed with a Mac laptop and a GIS software package, Rothem has been collecting and generating maps that turn abstract negotiating principles into real lines in the sand.
Click here for an MP3 of the presentation. I’ll post the .pdf of the slides as soon as I get them.
The issues to be negotiated are well known. Among the most pressing are, how much land for peace? How to deal with the right of return? What will be the capital of Palestine? How’s it going to work economically and who will provide the security guarantees? Dan Rothem’s presentation made it clear that once the negotiators agree to broad principles, those broad principles can be turned into reality–or at least a digital version of reality–almost instantly. No longer will presidents, prime ministers, and envoys be standing around a paper map with thick markers and quizzical looks.

But the problem coming into Annapolis is not about a lack of ideas or a lack of capability. The problem is the same that halted the last round: the lack of political will and the lack of political legitimacy. Does Israel have the political will and does the PLO have the political legitimacy? Here Daniel Levy cut through the fog and put his finger on the problem: Israel is still “playing chess with itself,” Levy said. Prime Minister Olmert needs to resurrect his political capital and then use it but resurrection for Olmert will not be easy. Once they decide to play chess with the Palestinians, sophisticated yet easy to use tools like Dan Rothem’s maps will make much quicker work of the negotiations.
It’s not all bad news. In a sad way, Kadima, the relatively new centrist party carved out of right-wing Likud and left-wing Labor, has made reaching a solution more likely. By continuing the Sharon-led policy of the erecting the wall/barrier/fence designed to separate Israelis and Palestinians, Levy says the disillusioned doves in Kadima have made whatever is east of that wall/barrier/fence definitely “not Israel.”
While Israel plays chess with itself, the Palestinians are fractured. The split between Hamas and the PLO is getting worse, with large swathes of the West Bank now off limits to the PLO leadership, not to mention the complete loss of Gaza to Hamas. Across the Territories the economy is going down and the veil is going up.
Will Abu Mazen be able to deliver anything meaningful in Annapolis? It does not look promising. The best thing that the US can do for the Palestinians, Levy says is to stop interfering and let them sort out their own politics. If the PLO can somehow re-engage Hamas moderates, Palestinian realists have the best chance to revive the outcomes of the Geneva Accords, with some modifications to the maps, of course.
The one map that Rothem did not have on his laptop today was a chart of the waters around Annapolis–regardless of what happens, it’s going to be some rough sailing for Condi Rice and she’s going to need all the help she can get.
–Patrick Doherty


7 comments on “Mapping Solutions with Dan Rothem

  1. Matthew says:

    What does a Palestinian state mean? Even the “generous” Barak plan envisioned an Israeli military presence in West Bank in perpetuity and limits on Palestinians drilling wells under Palestinian-controlled land. That’s a township, not a state. Do Palestinians have a say in the management of Tel Aviv?
    When China becomes a major player in the ME, that will be the time to talk about final status. Anyone who believes America can be part of the solution is living in a dream world.


  2. samuel burke says:

    does anyone here really expect steve to write anything on his blog that aipac wouldnt approve of?
    whats your opinions on israel palestine steve?
    how about on jerusalem?
    how about on right of return?
    i’ve said it in the past and i am ashamed to say it again….the muslims may be the only hope we have for freedom in america. hopefully americans will rise and take back washington, after seeing that the muslims are correct in standing up to the neoconservative movement of empire building.
    they will not compromise their values like americas politicians have done here.
    one would need a moral compass to stand up and speak truth to power with regards to what the palestinians have been subjected to for seventy plus years..
    israel the myth, continnues to impress these cowardly americans.


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    The more oppressed the Palestinians become, the more radicalized they become. The more radicalized they become, the more tenable Israel’s oppression of them becomes.
    Those that present Israel as desiring and seeking peace are living in a fantasy world. Israel’s goal is the eradication of the Palestinians, and they are pursuing that goal feverishly, militarily and logistically, while simultaneously working to undermine the infrastructure of the educational, medical, and social systems of Palestinian society. The Palestinian farming efforts are targeted as well. There will be no Palestinian state, and if Israel has its way, there will be no Palestinian people.
    Whats more, if these treasonous bastards in the White House succeed in engaging Iran militarily, the world’s eyes will be focused on that conflict. I pity the Palestinians for what Israel will do to them while mankind’s attention is diverted elswhere.


  4. Joe M. says:

    You are simply fooling yourself. You exhibit this when you say, for example, “Dan Rothem’s presentation made it clear that once the negotiators agree to broad principles, those broad principles can be turned into reality–or at least a digital version of reality–almost instantly.”
    The truth is that the standard debate on issues like Jerusalem, refugees and “borders” is way off. This is obvious if you look past the western headlines. Groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad are growing in strength BECAUSE the standard deal is so unacceptable to the Palestinians. It is not the other way around, that these groups are wrecking you “reality”. It is a simple fact that international law mandates that the Palestinians have a state along the lines of the 1947 Partition Plan, for example, not the meaningless “green line”. More than that, in a very short period of time, the vast majority of Palestinians will be demanding that there be a one-state solution. Israel, does not have a right to continue to demand such maximumist demands as they do. Not only is that a plain matter of justice, but it is a matter of law as well. And the Palestinians have already gone 60 years living with the injustice, there is simply no way they will give up their legitimate rights for some garbage deal that is forced on them by the USA and Israel. This is just fact. And people like you have to accept it.
    I do not say this because I am against peace, but because i actually want peace. For too long people like you and Levy and Rothem have dominated this conversation and lulled yourselves to sleep. You can’t just continue to push a bad plan and then be surprised when it doesn’t work, and then blame the Palestinians for rejecting it. They will only accept what they deserve. And if they don’t get it, there will not be peace. This is not unique to Palestinians. The Jews stole their land and ethnically cleansed them. This is historical fact. And it must be fairly addressed, not simply ignored.


  5. FYI says:

    You have to get Israel to vacate East Jerusalem; there can be no peace with Jews controlling Al Haram Al Sharif. The Palestinians cannot sign that away; it is not theirs; it belongs to Islam-dom.


  6. selise says:

    p.s. “I’ll post the .pdf of the slides as soon as I get them.”
    if you add the slides as “artwork” to the mp3 it will make it quite easy for us to see the slides as we listen to the audio.
    that is what i will do anyway, but thought it might be useful to your other readers.
    thank you very much for the audio – i love being able to listen for myself. much appreciated!


  7. selise says:

    “Does Israel have the political will and does the PLO have the political legitimacy?”
    the PLO does not, but Hamas does. long past time to start talking with them.


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