Palestinian statehood fades
A suicide attack on Monday that killed 14 casts more doubt on the viability of a Palestinian state.
US Undersecretary of State William Burns arrives in Israel today bearing a road map to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even as he does, analysts here say the basic concept underlying Middle East peace efforts a state for both peoples is becoming obsolete.Skip to next paragraph
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The road map, part of a US push to muster regional support for war against Iraq, outlines steps to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The idea of co-existing states, based on a land-for-peace formula, has been the blueprint for peace efforts for more than a decade. But as Mr. Burns arrives to tout the latest incarnation, Israelis and Palestinians are increasingly questioning whether an independent Palestinian entity is even feasible.
"If we were offered [a state] now it might be viable, but I don't know if it will be practical in three, five, seven years," says Palestinian Minister of Labor Ghassan Khatib. "Given political reality, the settlement policy, and the radicalization of Palestinian politics, I think that every day the viability of the two-state solution is less and less."
Analysts point to the steady sprawl of Israeli construction in the Occupied Territories, the vast gulf of mutual distrust that has widened over two years of bitter fighting and a lack of political will.
"Looking at the situation objectively it's hard to resist the conclusion that the two-state idea is in deep trouble," says one diplomat.
"That puts us in a very dangerous situation indeed. If you don't have a two-state solution you have a one-state solution, one state with two classes of citizens if that state is to have a Jewish character or a democratic secular state in Palestine, which means the death of Israel within 10 years."
Finger-pointing is rampant, with each side accusing the other of lacking the political resolve to make two states work. Israelis see Monday's bus bombing, which killed 14 and wounded around 50, as another example of the Palestinian failure to keep up their end of the land-for-peace bargain.
While Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemned the attack, claimed by Islamic Jihad, Israel's leadership declared Mr. Arafat responsible "by direct commission or omission" for the blast.
"Are they ready to put a stop to terror?" asks Ephraim Inbar, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv. "For the time being the answer would be negative and so they have failed the basic criteria of a state, establishing a monopoly over the use of power. You can't have a state with militias running around."
Critics who charge that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon lacks the will to make concessions are wrong, says Mr. Inbar. "I don't think he's in love with the idea of a two-state solution, but he has said that he's in favor of a very incremental approach, an interim agreement, that he's willing to make painful concessions."
Some of those concessions are laid out in the US road map. In the first of three stages to take place through 2006, Palestinians must end violence and enact political reform while Israel, among other things, dismantles settlement outposts small structures built without any of the necessary Israeli building permits, usually to extend the area controlled by a settlement and freezes settlement construction. Settlements communities built in the occupied territories and illegal under international law are a thorny issue for Mr. Sharon. He has been a guiding force behind Israel's efforts to populate the West Bank since his tenure as agriculture minister in the late 1970s. Indeed, Sharon has agreed only in principle to previous calls for settlement freezes in the Tenet and Mitchell plans.