As Israeli-Palestinian negotiations restart, Palestinians are determined to begin by tackling the issue of borders, before working backwards toward deciding how to implement the establishment of a Palestinian state. Once agreement is reached on borders, the thinking goes, it will become clear who has the right to decide whether or not settlement activity can continue.
Naturally all this talk must have a reference point. While exact borders are a matter for negotiation, it is hard to begin talks if one side insists on anticipating a fixed outcome. Yet the most recent maps published by the governemt unilaterally annex Palestine to Israel while ignoring the existence of many Palestinian communities.
It is hard to accept the Israeli argument that this is merely symbolic issue. Symbols are important, and in preventing the realization of a Palestinian state, Israel has given them plenty of attention.
For years it was Palestinians who were confronted with their own symbolic issues, whether in the PLO charter or the maps in Palestinian school books. Israel and Israeli propagandists use Palestinian maps to question Palestinian recognition of Israel. Palestinians are asked why certain Palestinian maps lack a demarcation of the West Bank and why Israeli towns such as Tel Aviv disappear from these maps while nearby Jaffa is listed.
In the past, Palestinians often responded by asking what the borders of Israel are. Do they include or exclude Jerusalem? Do the Israelis in fact accept Palestinian statehood at the same time as asking Palestinians for recognition of Israel?