From Nakba to Two-state Chimera

RAMALLAH – Sixty years after Israel was created on the rubbles of their country and after two decades of fruitless negotiations, Palestinians are losing faith in the long-touted two-state solution.

"Israel’s maximum offers don’t meet our minimum demands" a senior Palestinian official told Reuters Monday, May 12.

"Obviously, we are being offered less land, no return of refugees, and no Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem)."

The two-state solution has been the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations since the launch of Middle East peace process in 1991.

However, endless peace talks brought no tangible progress.

Israel has long put many obstacles before the creation of two separate states on the historic land of Britain-mandated Palestine.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority vowed during the much-touted US-hosted Annapolis peace conference last November to conclude a deal by 2008.

But since then, peace talks have stalled over Israel’s refusal to put the issues of East Jerusalem and refugees on the agenda.

"There is a debate now," says analyst Mehdi Abdel-Hadi.

"They are saying a two-state solution is a mission impossible."

Palestinians insist that occupied East Jerusalem, home to Islam’s third holiest shrine, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the city which represents the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict, be the capital of their future state.

They also want nearly 4.5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants to be allowed back into homes from which they were forced out when Israel was created in 1948.

One State

With the two-state solution gradually turning into a chimera, Palestinians are weighing a radically different scenario.

"We are debating our options in case the talks with Israel fail," said the senior official.

Abdel-Hadi, a prominent expert of national affairs, says the idea of one state absorbing Jews and Arabs seems more appealing for many frustrated Palestinians.

"They’re saying…let’s talk about one secular, bi-national state."

The idea was even proposed by chief negotiator Ahmed Qurie in recent talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"I told Livni and Rice in January when they offered us less land for a state: ‘In that case a two-state solution won’t work. Let’s have just one’," Qurie has said.

But even that option is not viable for the Israelis.

Last year, Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert said one state with the Palestinians means that Jews would in time face Arab majority rule.

"The day will come when the two-state solution collapses and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights," Olmert has said.

"As soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished."

There are 5.7 million Jews and 1.5 million Arab citizens in Israel, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics tallies nearly 3.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

"The drive for Israel to be demographically and geographically a Jewish democratic state is a very strong one," Israeli analyst Yossi Alpher told Reuters.

He insists that a sovereign Palestinian state would be the best way to end the conflict.

"But we don’t appear to be near to achieving it right now."
( and agencies)

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