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Window closing for a two-state solution in the Middle East

Some see a risky 'one-state solution' as the only remaining option in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / February 17, 2009

Clashes continue: A Palestinian hurls a stone at Israeli troops during a demonstration in the West Bank last Friday.

nasser ishtayeh/ap

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Two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

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When the "two-state solution" became the mantra of President Bush early in his presidency, it seemed no other option was plausible, despite the daunting obstacles.

Yet in recent months and, particularly, in the wake of Israel's electoral lurch to the right last Tuesday, a number of Israelis and Palestinians are warning that the two-state solution is in its death throes. Increasingly observers foresee a "one-state solution" imposing itself – something many moderates on both sides say would be disastrous and would mean instability in the region for decades to come.

"The window is rapidly closing on the two-state solution," says Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who ran second in the 2005 Palestinian presidential elections.

"The two-state solution is very near death," says Alon Pinkas, a former consul general of Israel in New York who is now president of the US-Israel Institute at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv.

Even Libyan President Muammar Qadafi says the two-state solution is no longer an option and that only a single state – with Israelis and Palestinians living together in harmony – remains as a viable solution to the decades-old conflict.

The two sides give different reasons to explain why the chances of reaching a two-state solution are evaporating.

On the Palestinian side, the explanation is as simple as a map showing the steady encroachment by Israel into Palestinian lands in the form of settlements in the occupied West Bank. Between the settlements and the Israeli wall shutting off Palestinian movement and commerce, the possibility of a viable state has been nipped in the bud, Mr. Barghouti says.

And on the Israeli side, support for the two-state solution has withered as Israelis have become convinced that they have no viable partner among the Palestinians with whom to negotiate a two-state solution.