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Your Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process Glossary

Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Amman on Friday that his shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East is paying off. "We have reached an agreement that establishes the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis," he proclaimed. Remember the peace process? After three years of dormancy, it's back!

Well, maybe. "The agreement is still in the process of being formalized," Kerry hedged, but Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni will meet in Washington, D.C. next week to continue planning.

In case you've forgotten what all this means, here's a handy guide to the buzzwords you'll be hearing for the next few weeks.

Preconditions: What's keeping these talks from being "formalized"? Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been reticent to sit down at the same table without a general framework and some early concessions. A reported stumbling block in Kerry's latest push to re-establish talks has been Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's insistence that Israeli negotiators propose a border for a potential Palestinian state and agree to a settlement freeze. What's that, you ask?

Settlement Freeze: A perennial problem in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Palestinian officials regularly call for the Israeli government to halt the construction of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, places that Palestinian negotiators hope to claim for a Palestinian state. Many Palestinians consider the proliferation of settlements in the West Bank, often subsidized by the Israeli government, to be a tacit effort to informally annex the West Bank. The more settlements that are built, they argue, the harder it will be to reach a two-state solution based on the 1967 border.

1967 Border: At the start of the Six Day War in 1967, Gaza was held by Egypt, the Golan Heights by Syria, and the West Bank by Jordan; after the Six Day War, Israel had pushed its Arab neighbors to the Sinai Peninsula to the West, to the Jordan River to the East, and out of the Golan, and its occupation of these new territories has continued since (except for Gaza, from which Israel withdrew but has since subjected to a military blockade to isolate the Strip's Hamas-led government). The two-state solution is premised on a Palestinian state established in the Gazan and West Bank territory held by Egypt and Jordan at the start of the Six Day War. But those exact borders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has argued, have become indefensible, and Israeli negotiators are pushing to retain settler-held territory in the West Bank.

Mutually Agreed Swaps: The compromise, then, is to exchange territory -- Palestinian negotiators will concede settlement blocs in the West Bank to Israel in exchange for territorial additions to the Palestinian state. Exactly what those land swaps will entail, though, will be a major subject of any negotiation.

Right of Return: This can be a tricky one, even for some politicians. Palestinian negotiators argue that Palestinians and their descendents displaced by the 1948 war and the establishment of Israel should be allowed to return to the homes they fled. Israeli negotiators have consistently resisted the resettlement of Palestinian refugees to Israel, arguing that it is logistically not feasible and would alter the fundamental identity of the Israeli state.

Recognition as a Jewish State: The last round of direct talks fell apart when Palestinian negotiators reportedly would not concede that Israel is a "Jewish state" in exchange for a settlement freeze. The identity of Israel as a Jewish state has become an increasing priority for Israeli negotiators over the past decade as Israel has faced growing demographic challenges.

"Missed Opportunity": Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Abba Eban famously accused Palestinian negotiators of "never miss[ing] an opportunity to miss an opportunity," but it could be said of all the parties involved, including, often, the United States. This latest round of talks -- still potential talks, remember, next week's meeting will still be hashing out the preliminary details -- could well be yet another "missed opportunity" for all involved. See also: the 2010 negotiations, the Annapolis Conference, the Roadmap for Peace, the Clinton administration's Camp David Summit, the Oslo Negotiations, the Madrid Conference, etc.

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If Detroit Were a Country, Would It Be a Failed State?

The city of Detroit has sorrows to spare. Its government -- officially, as of Thursday -- can't pay its bills. Its police don't arrive in time to stop criminals, and its ambulances don't arrive in time to save lives. Its citizens are fleeing in droves. It's likely the most dysfunctional municipality in the United States. All of which got us wondering: If Detroit were a country, would it be considered a failed state?

To answer that question, we reached out to the folks at Fund for Peace, who put together our annual Failed States Index (FSI), for help. They applied their CAST framework and methodology (the same set of indicators they use for the index) to Detroit and -- after pointing out the risks of comparing apples to oranges, and that scoring a country is very different from scoring a non-state entity -- came back with this: With its score of 59.5, Detroit falls into the category of "borderline" states (the higher the score, the worse off the state).

If Detroit were a country, it would be doing slightly better than states like Brazil (62.1) and Kuwait (59.6). But it would be slightly worse off than Mongolia (57.8), Romania (57.4), and Panama (55.8). Still, Motown remains a long way from the ranks of failed states like Somalia (113.9) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (111.9). Overall, it would be ranked 128th on our index; the United States as a whole (33.5) ranks 159th.

How did the Fund for Peace come up with these results? Its scoring system assesses countries (or, in this case, a city) using primary-source data across a series of 12 indicators of different types of pressures on government institutions. While the group decided that one of those indicators -- "refugees/internally displaced persons" -- did not apply at the city level (despite the city's serious homelessness problem), all of the other potential pressures -- bad demographics, poverty, human flight and brain drain, among them -- are, in fact, factors in the Motor City's current woes.

"Any jurisdiction will face certain pressures, and that is what this -- albeit rough -- analysis of the city of Detroit has attempted to capture," Failed States Index Co-Director J.J. Messner said in an email to Foreign Policy.

Here's a closer look at some of the reasons Detroit landed where it did in the rankings:

It faces serious human flight/brain drain issues

In this category, Detroit scores a 6.5 (the U.S. as a whole scores 1.0). For context, that makes it worse off than Syria (6.2) and at the same level of South Sudan (6.5), according to the Fund for Peace's analysis. In a recent poll commissioned by the Detroit News, 40 percent of respondents said they planned to move away from the city within the next five years; more than half said they would live in another city today if they could.

It struggles with poverty and economic decline

Detroit's economic decline from the days when it was the world's car factory is legendary. Today, Detroit faces a per capita income of just $15,261. Why is this such an important source of pressure? According to the Fund for Peace, "poverty and economic decline strain the ability of the state to provide for its citizens if they cannot provide for themselves and can create friction between the 'haves' and 'have nots.'" Detroit's score here is a 6.5 (the U.S. as a whole is 3.2) -- again, not far off from Syria (6.4).

Its security apparatus is dysfunctional

To be effective, a state's security apparatus should have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force; in Detroit, that no longer seems to be the case. In addition to its police response times, which have become notorious, and its high volume of gun and gang violence, some worry that what started as volunteer "community policing" groups have crossed a line into vigilante justice. Detroit's scores a 5.5 on the security apparatus indicator, giving it a similar ranking to Rwanda (5.5) and Sierra Leone (5.4) in this category; the U.S. scores a 2.2.


Where does Detroit do well? While it consistently scores worse than the U.S. as a whole in each indicator, it outperforms all states in the Failed States Index's top 60 in the realm of "Public Services," with a score of 3.4 compared to America's 2.4 (though it gets a few knocks for the poor quality of its sewage system and its public school system.) It also remains on steadier ground when it comes to "Human Rights and Rule of Law," with a score of 4.1 compared to America's 3.5. This, according to the Fund, is "the state's ultimate responsibility."

This week certainly brought more grim news for a city that's had more than its fair share. But Detroit, it seems, hasn't failed just yet.

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