As peace talks sputter, Israelis and Palestinians eye Plan B
Forming a single binational state is among the alternatives being raised to the two-state solution.
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Mr. Bashir concedes that, though he supports the creation of a single state of Arabs and Jews, it is unclear how such an entity can be created, given the opposition of Israeli Jews and the reluctance of many Palestinian leaders. A binational state was the prevailing choice of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Liberation Organization until 1988. While a growing number of Palestinian intellectuals embrace the idea of a binational state, it remains a minority position.Skip to next paragraph
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"Talk about one state is a nice message, but its impossible. We will kill them, and they will kill us," says Ron Pundak, the director of the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv and an architect of the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles reached in Oslo.
Many Israelis fear that as Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel reach demographic parity with Jews, demands for one state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea will grow more compelling. US and Israeli officials have warned that the window of opportunity for the two-state solution might be closing.
There is also talk among Palestinians of a unilateral declaration of statehood in the spirit of Kosovo's secession from Serbia this year. (On the eve of a deadline for an agreement in 1999, Palestinian leaders threatened a similar move but ultimately didn't follow through.)
Israeli critics of the current negotiations question the value of holding peace talks with a government whose legitimacy is challenged by many Palestinians.
Instead of widening the rift between Abbas and Hamas by pushing peace talks that divides the Palestinians into "moderate" peace partners and "extremist" enemies, Israel should encourage Palestinian reconciliation, says Shlomo Brom, a former Israeli general and currently a fellow at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv.
"As long as there is no agreement between Hamas and Fatah, at least on the rules of the game of running the Palestinian Authority, there is no chance of reach an agreement or implementing an agreement," he says. "Israel needs a new paradigm."