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Why Trump's Palestine map is important

Trump's Middle East peace plan contains the first map of a Palestinian state that 'Israel can live with'.

Trump's plan calls for tunnels and bridges to overcome the dispersion of Palestinian territory.

Image: the White House
  • Trump's Middle East plan is the first U.S. proposal to contain a map of a two-state solution.
  • Considering Israel's close involvement, this map represents a Palestine 'Israel can live with'.
  • But Palestinians are unlikely to agree to give up East Jerusalem—or much else.


Caught between a napkin and a conspiracy

Detail of the Conceptual Map for a Palestinian state, proposed by U.S. president Donald Trump.

The Palestinians' only gain: two zones ceded by Israel in the southern desert, one for 'high-tech manufacturing', the other for 'residential and agricultural' purposes.

Image: The White House

"I say to Trump and Netanyahu: Jerusalem is not for sale," fulminated Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in a televised speech from Ramallah. "Your (…) conspiracy will not pass."

Meeting with such fury from one of the two parties it aims to reconcile, Trump's Peace Plan, proposed in Washington DC with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in attendance, is unlikely to succeed.

But there is one major difference between this and all previous U.S. proposals to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians: it contains a map. And even if the Trump plan will follow all its predecessors into the dustbin of history, the map remains a significant first.

Never before has a U.S. administration officially proposed borders for a Palestinian state. Considering the close political concertation between the U.S. and Israel—its main ally in the region—it is safe to assume that those borders have been seen and approved by the Israeli side. Which would also be a first. Not that no borders haven't ever been proposed, but they have never been published.

The Jerusalem Post cites the example of Ehud Olmert, when he was prime minister of Israel in 2008, showing Palestinian president Abbas a map during a private meeting. It showed Israel retreating from 94% of the West Bank (i.e. almost to the 1967 border), excepting some large settlement blocks. As an equivalent of the remaining 6%, land inside Israel was offered. Israel would also withdraw from East Jerusalem; the Temple Mount and the Old City would be placed under international control.

Due to the sensitive nature of Olmert's plan—surely too generous for hardliners on the Israeli side—the Israeli PM did not want to hand over the map to Abbas, who sketched it onto a napkin after the meeting. The 'napkin map' became public in 2013.

Conceptual map

The conceptual map for a Palestinian state, proposed by U.S. president Donald Trump.

Under the Trump plan, Israel cedes 70% of the West Bank to the Palestinian state.

Image: The White House

The 'Conceptual Map' in Trump's plan is the first one ever published officially by the American (and/or Israeli) side. It is less generous than the Olmert plan:

  • Under the Trump plan, Israel cedes 70% of the West Bank to the Palestinian state. The PLO countered that Trump's plan gives Palestinians control over just 15% of 'historical Palestine'.
  • The entirety of Jerusalem and its immediate surroundings remain under Israeli control. Jerusalem remains the undivided capital of Israel. Palestinians may establish a capital in the city's east.
  • Israel maintains territorial control over the Jordan River valley, cutting off Palestine from direct contact with Jordan. However, two roads and border crossings would offer access to Palestine's Arab neighbor to the east.
  • Large blocks of Israeli settlements are annexed to Israel, cutting into (and through) Palestinian territory, which, as the map indicates, would not be a contiguous zone, but consist of several large 'islands'. Trump nevertheless said the U.S. would "work to create a contiguous territory within the future Palestinian state."
  • The Gaza Strip remains remote from the rest of Palestinian territory, but would be connected to the West Bank via a tunnel running under Israeli territory.
  • Compensation for the loss of territory in the West Bank would be provided in the form of two blocks of desert territory on the border with Egypt, linked to Gaza via a thin strip of land.
  • Palestinian state would be granted access to seaport facilities in two Israeli port cities, Ashdod and Haifa.

President Abbas's fury is understandable. This proposal turns Israel's occupation and takeover of large parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank into a fait accompli. But while the overall plan may fail, keep a good eye on this map. For the first time, it shows the extent of a Palestinian state that the Israeli state may feel comfortable living with. And that's an important step. Even if this may not be a state the Palestinians may feel comfortable living in.

Map found here on Donald Trump's Twitter.

Strange Maps #1008

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

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If you don't practice accountability at work you're letting the formula for success slip right through your hands.

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  • What is accountability? It's a tool for improving performance and, once its potential is thoroughly understood, it can be leveraged at scale in any team or organization.
  • In this lesson for leaders, managers, and individuals, Shideh Sedgh Bina, a founding partner of Insigniam and the editor-in-chief of IQ Insigniam Quarterly, explains why it is so crucial to success.
  • Learn to recognize the mindset of accountable versus unaccountable people, then use Shideh's guided exercise as a template for your next post-project accountability analysis—whether that project was a success or it fell short, it's equally important to do the reckoning.

What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth

Could this former river island in the Indus have inspired Tolkien to create Cair Andros, the ship-shaped island in the Anduin river?

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien himself hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
  • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
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Giant whale sharks have teeth on their eyeballs

The ocean's largest shark relies on vision more than previously believed.

An eight-metre-long Whale shark swims with other fish at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium on February 26, 2010 in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan.

Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Japanese researchers discovered that the whale shark has "tiny teeth"—dermal denticles—protecting its eyes from abrasion.
  • They also found the shark is able to retract its eyeball into the eye socket.
  • Their research confirms that this giant fish relies on vision more than previously believed.
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A massive star has mysteriously vanished, confusing astronomers

A gigantic star makes off during an eight-year gap in observations.

Image source: ESO/L. Calçada
Surprising Science
  • The massive star in the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy seems to have disappeared between 2011 and 2019.
  • It's likely that it erupted, but could it have collapsed into a black hole without a supernova?
  • Maybe it's still there, but much less luminous and/or covered by dust.

A "very massive star" in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy caught the attention of astronomers in the early years of the 2000s: It seemed to be reaching a late-ish chapter in its life story and offered a rare chance to observe the death of a large star in a region low in metallicity. However, by the time scientists had the chance to turn the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile back around to it in 2019 — it's not a slow-turner, just an in-demand device — it was utterly gone without a trace. But how?

The two leading theories about what happened are that either it's still there, still erupting its way through its death throes, with less luminosity and perhaps obscured by dust, or it just up and collapsed into a black hole without going through a supernova stage. "If true, this would be the first direct detection of such a monster star ending its life in this manner," says Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, leader of the observation team whose study is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

So, em...

Between astronomers' last look in 2011 and 2019 is a large enough interval of time for something to happen. Not that 2001 (when it was first observed) or 2019 have much meaning, since we're always watching the past out there and the Kinman Dwarf Galaxy is 75 million light years away. We often think of cosmic events as slow-moving phenomena because so often their follow-on effects are massive and unfold to us over time. But things happen just as fast big as small. The number of things that happened in the first 10 millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, for example, is insane.

In any event, the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is far way, too far for astronomers to directly observe its stars. Their presence can be inferred from spectroscopic signatures — specifically, PHL 293B between 2001 and 2011 consistently featured strong signatures of hydrogen that indicated the presence of a massive "luminous blue variable" (LBV) star about 2.5 times more brilliant than our Sun. Astronomers suspect that some very large stars may spend their final years as LBVs.

Though LBVs are known to experience radical shifts in spectra and brightness, they reliably leave specific traces that help confirm their ongoing presence. In 2019 the hydrogen signatures, and such traces, were gone. Allan says, "It would be highly unusual for such a massive star to disappear without producing a bright supernova explosion."

The Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is one of the most metal-poor galaxies known. Explosive, massive, Wolf-Rayet stars are seldom seen in such environments — NASA refers to such stars as those that "live fast, die hard." Red supergiants are also rare to low Z environments. The now-missing star was looked to as a rare opportunity to observe a massive star's late stages in such an environment.

Celestial sleuthing

In August 2019, the team pointed the four eight-meter telescopes of ESO's ESPRESSO array simultaneously toward the LBV's former location: nothing. They also gave the VLT's X-shooter instrument a shot a few months later: also nothing.

Still pursuing the missing star, the scientists acquired access to older data for comparison to what they already felt they knew. "The ESO Science Archive Facility enabled us to find and use data of the same object obtained in 2002 and 2009," says Andrea Mehner, an ESO staff member who worked on the study. "The comparison of the 2002 high-resolution UVES spectra with our observations obtained in 2019 with ESO's newest high-resolution spectrograph ESPRESSO was especially revealing, from both an astronomical and an instrumentation point of view."

Examination of this data suggested that the LBV may have indeed been winding up to a grand final sometime after 2011.

Team member Jose Groh, also of Trinity College, says "We may have detected one of the most massive stars of the local Universe going gently into the night. Our discovery would not have been made without using the powerful ESO 8-meter telescopes, their unique instrumentation, and the prompt access to those capabilities following the recent agreement of Ireland to join ESO."

Combining the 2019 data with contemporaneous Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imagery leaves the authors of the reports with the sense that "the LBV was in an eruptive state at least between 2001 and 2011, which then ended, and may have been followed by a collapse into a massive BH without the production of an SN. This scenario is consistent with the available HST and ground-based photometry."

Or...

A star collapsing into a black hole without a supernova would be a rare event, and that argues against the idea. The paper also notes that we may simply have missed the star's supernova during the eight-year observation gap.

LBVs are known to be highly unstable, so the star dropping to a state of less luminosity or producing a dust cover would be much more in the realm of expected behavior.

Says the paper: "A combination of a slightly reduced luminosity and a thick dusty shell could result in the star being obscured. While the lack of variability between the 2009 and 2019 near-infrared continuum from our X-shooter spectra eliminates the possibility of formation of hot dust (⪆1500 K), mid-infrared observations are necessary to rule out a slowly expanding cooler dust shell."

The authors of the report are pretty confident the star experienced a dramatic eruption after 2011. Beyond that, though:

"Based on our observations and models, we suggest that PHL 293B hosted an LBV with an eruption that ended sometime after 2011. This could have been followed by
(1) a surviving star or
(2) a collapse of the LBV to a BH [black hole] without the production of a bright SN, but possibly with a weak transient."

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