Players have two colors, say "Red" and "Blue".... They take turns placing a piece of their own color on a hexagon. Red's goal is to form a red path connecting two opposite sides of the parallelogram, and Blue aims to connect the other two sides....
The game can never end in a tie, a fact found by Nash: the only way to prevent your opponent from forming a connecting path is to form a path yourself.
I was reminded of Hex when I saw the headline on this report from Ha'aretz and AP:
Olmert: Israel ready to create 'contiguous' Palestinian state
LONDON - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that Israel is "prepared to pull out from most" of the West Bank and create a "contiguous" Palestinian state.
Either Olmert didn't say that, or he doesn't know what he's talking about (or he's being deliberately obfuscatory). As even the New York Times has finally realized (hat tip: Soccer Dad), Gaza and the West Bank are not contiguous. The only way to create a contiguous Palestinian state is by splitting Israel in two, granting the Palestinians a sovereign corridor between the mountains and the sea (as they have consistently demanded).
As in Hex, "the only way to prevent your opponent from forming a connecting path is to form a path yourself." Only one state can be contiguous. All the talk about "two states, living side by side" (Bush) or "a Palestinian state alongside Israel" (the "road map") is meaningless. The choice is between a Palestinian state sandwiching Israel, a Palestinian state bisecting Israel, or a Palestinian state partly encircled by Israel. There is no other way to make a Palestinian state. (Veteran readers know I don't believe there will ever be one, but that's beside the point.)
So what did Olmert mean? The Jerusalem Post has a more extensive quote in its version of the story. It quotes Olmert as saying, "...we will have to move forward... to separate from the Palestinians, pull out from areas of the West Bank to realign Israelis to other parts of Israel to leave a very large contiguous territories for a state to be formed by the Palestinians."
That's different, isn't it? It doesn't specify that the Palestinian state will be contiguous, only that it will comprise "very large contiguous territories." Now, I'm not pleased with that prospect, and furthermore I don't believe that the Palestinians will create a sovereign state no matter how much contiguous territory Israel evacuates. But at least it's geographically possible.
Unfortunately, Olmert wasn't nearly so coherent last month in Washington. He spoke before Congress about "a Palestinian state, side by side in peace and security with Israel." At the White House, he referred to "a contiguous territory that will allow the Palestinians to establish their own Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel." Whether "side by side" or "alongside", it's still physically impossible.
So, which will it be? Will the Palestinian state be contiguous, or will Israel remain in one piece?
I hope our leaders are good at Hex.
(Incidentally, the game of Hex is also an apt analogy for the strategies of Jewish and Arab settlement in the West Bank, as well as land development in the Negev and Galilee. But I don't have time to go into that here.)