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Not just Romney: Many in Middle East are losing faith in a two-state solution, too

But Palestinian reasons differ dramatically from US presidential nominee Mitt Romney's secretly videotaped comments.

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Many Israelis and their leaders see the settlements as providing a security buffer for Israel and as fulfilling biblical claims to the land.

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But Palestinians argue that the spread of settlements, and the roads connecting them, are whittling away at the land that could feasibly become a Palestinian state – already divided between the landlocked West Bank and the coastal Gaza Strip.

“If you look at the West Bank now, it’s like Swiss cheese,” says Hamas official Ghazi Hamad, who is deputy foreign minister in Gaza. “I don’t know what is left for negotiation.”

Now Palestinians and Israel’s 20 percent Arab minority are becoming increasingly vocal about giving up the two-state solution in favor of a “one-state solution” – in which higher Arab birth rates and the absorption of Palestinians would tip the demographic scale in their favor.

But Mr. Abdul-Karim says that is a bad idea.

“The situation is either a two-state solution or an apartheid state that controls all the lands of historical Palestine and in this case there will be … a more ferocious conflict that may go on for more decades and that this is not a solution in actual fact,” he says. “This is a recipe for prolonged and protracted war.”

US wearing Israeli glasses?

So who is to blame for the stalemate that has prevailed since autumn 2010? Israel’s government has repeatedly invited the Palestinians to come to the peace table with no pre-conditions, but Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted on an Israeli freeze on settlement building before returning to talks.

But Israel, which enforced a 10-month settlement freeze in 2010, has refused another freeze.

Mr. Hamad and Abdul-Karim both say the Palestinians have showed a lot of concessions, by retreating from their original demand for a Greater Palestine to a state on about 22 percent of that land.

Now, says Hamad, it’s up to Israel.

“The solution is in the hand of Israel – settlements, borders, refugees, Jerusalem – everything is in the hand of Israel.”

But he says the winds of change in the Arab world can benefit Palestinians, who are already enjoying more support from Egypt. It’s a trend the US would do well to heed, instead of seeing everything through the prism of Israeli security, he says.

“I think we have to put forth a new strategy and US should understand that time has changed,” says Hamad. “They should take off the glasses of Israel from their eyes.”

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