William Quandt makes an important point here, and one that Palestinian negotiators have consistently emphasised in talks with Israel: when discussing land swaps, what matters is not mere percentages, but the implications of particular Israeli annexations for the territorial contiguity and economic viability of the area designated, under international law and by an overwhelming international political consensus, for the exercise of Palestinian self-determination.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for one, conspicuously failed to understand this. During the Annapolis talks, in July 2008, she berated the Palestinian team with arithmetic:
I don’t think it matters much if you start from the status quo, or 1967. What matters is where the borders end up. They made an offer – it’s not good, but it’s not bad. 7.3 – 5 is 2.3, which leaves 97.7 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the safe passage… [A]re you really going to stop a Palestinian state on a few percentages?
Ahmed Qurei responded:
But we don’t want to fly to Jerusalem by helicopter!
Then you won’t have a state!
* Credit to Norman G. Finkelstein for the quotes, which are from the Palestine Papers.