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Palestinian PM says two-state solution in danger
( 2004-01-09 09:36) (Agencies)

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie said Thursday Palestinians would seek to forge a single bi-national state with Israel if Israel carried out its threat to absorb chunks of the West Bank.

Qurie's comments underscored the Palestinians' sense of desperation in the face of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral plan to impose a boundary stripping them of some of the land they want for a state if peacemaking remains frozen.

Israel strongly opposes a single state made up of Palestinians and Israelis, fearing that unless they separate from the Palestinians, Israel could end up ruling an area in which Jews would soon be a minority.

Qurie said Sharon's unilateralism, including a vast barrier Israel is building in the West Bank, could prompt Palestinians to abandon efforts for a two-state solution to the conflict.

"This is an apartheid solution to put the Palestinians in cantons. Who can accept this?" he said in an interview in his office in the West Bank town of Abu Dis near Jerusalem.

"We will go for a one-state solution...There's no other solution. We will not hesitate to defend the right of our people when we feel the very serious intention (of Israel) to destroy these rights."

Sharon has indicated he hopes to pre-empt a bi-national 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 Qurie'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.

Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated Washington's view that a two-state solution was the only way forward and the way to achieve it was for Qurie to crack down on militants.

"We're committed to a two-state solution," Powell told a news conference. "I believe that's the only solution that will work: a state for the Palestinian people called Palestine and a Jewish state, state of Israel. I don't believe that we can accept a situation that results in anything that one might characterize as apartheid..."


Some Palestinian intellectuals say the Palestinian Authority should make clear that, if necessary, it is prepared to dissolve itself in order to put pressure on Israel to make concessions.

Israel, they say, would then have to reassume the full financial and legal burden of caring for the Palestinian population, as it did as an occupying power from 1967 to the start of interim self-rule in 1994.

Israeli politicians, including figures in Sharon's rightist Likud party, have voiced alarm that Jews could lose their majority and see their democratic institutions threatened.

But Palestinian officials say that calling for a bi-national state would be used only as a last resort, since it would mean dropping longstanding aspirations for a state of their own.

Showing maps of the barrier, Qurie said it was an attempt to "put Palestinians like chickens in cages."

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

Israel says the barrier is a security line, not a political border, and that it has already foiled many suicide bombings.

Qurie, a moderate and former peace negotiator who took power in November, has faced heavy pressure from the United States and Israel to crack down on militants as required by the road map, which has stalled amid violence.

He has failed so far to coax militant groups into resuming a cease-fire that collapsed in August and has blamed Israel for provoking more violence with army raids and missile strikes.

Qurie said he would not meet Sharon until he was assured it would yield progress toward restarting the road map. "If we go out from the meeting without results, the frustration will prevail more and more and it will be a catastrophe."

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