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Palestinian leader would back one state with israel

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Palestinian leader would back one state with Israel
By Los Angeles Times and Reuters

JERUSALEM The Palestinian people might forgo their decades-long struggle for an independent state and, instead, push to become citizens of a single, Jewish-Arab nation, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said yesterday in a response to an Israeli threat to unilaterally draw boundaries.

If there is no agreement, "we will go for a one-state solution," Qureia said. "We will not hesitate to defend the right of our people when we feel the very serious intention (of Israel) to destroy these rights."

Israelis strongly oppose the scenario of a single state, fearing that unless they separate from the Palestinians, Israel could end up ruling an area in which Jews soon would be a minority because of the high Arab birthrate. Some 3.5 million Palestinians now live in the West Bank and Gaza, and 1.2 million Arabs live inside Israel's 1967 borders. About 5.5 million Jews live in Israel.

Qureia "is threatening to throw a demographic bomb at us," said Ranaan Gissin, adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who last month said Israel would unilaterally declare borders if the Palestinians did not begin negotiations for a bilateral settlement soon. Sharon's ultimatum, delivered in December, gave a new sense of desperation to Palestinians, many of whom fear they have lost the chance to negotiate.

Qureia said Israeli policy has left him no choice. In his office in the West Bank town of Abu Dis, he showed maps of Israel's controversial separation fence. The wall is an attempt to "put Palestinians like chickens in cages," he said.

"The wall is to unilaterally mark the borders, this is the intention behind the wall," he said. "It will kill the 'road map' (peace plan) and kill the two-state vision."

Sharon has indicated that he hopes to pre-empt a binational situation by vacating smaller, more remote Jewish settlements that will not be encompassed by the Israeli barrier, casting off responsibility for the Palestinian population beyond.

Sharon's allies say unilateral actions will be necessary to protect Israel's security unless Qureia's government takes action against militants who have spearheaded suicide bombings.

Palestinians see Sharon's ultimatum as a ploy to evade a U.S.-backed peace road map, which calls for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza beside a secure Israel by 2005.

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