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Saturday, November 01, 2003

"One Mideast State May Be Future of Israel"

Associated Press "feature article"
By RAVI NESSMAN, Associated Press Writer
RAMALLAH, West Bank - Ramallah, the bustling heart of Palestinian life in the West Bank, is rapidly becoming surrounded by Israeli settlements, from the trailer homes of hilltop outposts to the cookie-cutter apartment buildings on the nearby outskirts of Jerusalem.

It's a familiar picture throughout the West Bank, and as the Jewish and Palestinian populations become more entangled, the internationally backed solution of separating them into two states is looking increasingly difficult.

With settlement-building continuing and peace efforts stalled, Israelis in growing numbers are worrying that a partition may soon become impossible — and some Palestinians have concluded that a single state for both peoples is in their interest.

"The conflict is not far from the point where it will no longer be possible to carry out a two-state solution," said Yossi Alpher, a leading Israeli political analyst.

It has become a matter of intense discussion on talk shows and editorial pages, supplying ammunition to Israeli peace campaigners who say a pullout from the West Bank and Gaza should be framed not as a compromise but as a necessity. The alternative, they say, will be an Israel swamped by Arabs, torn between giving them the vote and losing Jewish dominion over the country, or denying them the vote and standing accused of emulating apartheid South Africa.

That concern spurred at least two efforts by moderate politicians to negotiate unofficial peace deals with the Palestinians. The most recent plan, known as the Geneva Agreement, foresees Israel giving the Palestinians nearly all the territories it captured in 1967 and dismantling most settlements.

That agreement has no legal standing and has been vehemently condemned by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
And on playing the Palestinian population card:
According to Hermi Shalev, in Friday's Maariv [newspaper], Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon fears that Palestinian leaders who favor a two-state solution are losing ground, and that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat himself is willing to sit back and wait for Israel to buckle under the weight of a growing Palestinian population.

"Down the road you have to deal with a binational state coming your way," Palestinian political analyst Ali Jerbawi said. "It might take another 50 years, 70 years. Whatever."

Jerbawi says Israel should be given an ultimatum — agree on a Palestinian state in six months or the Palestinians will dump the idea and switch to seeking Israeli annexation. Israel would surely object to giving its new Palestinian citizens the vote, but eventually would have to yield, he said.
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