Palestinians could be forced to abandon their goal of a two-state solution, because of Israel’s strategy in negotiations, says Ahmed Qurei (photo, from elpais.com), a top Palestinian negotiator.
Instead, they may seek a binational solution, adds Mr Qurei, which is a single state for Israelis and Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
But Israel fears that it would spell the end of the Jewish majority state.
Since 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza, the country’s negotiators have always resisted full withdrawal from the territories.
Palestinian leadership had been working to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, said Mr Qurei in a meeting of the ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank.
“If Israel continues to reject this and prevent us from achieve our choice, we will call for the alternative solution for the Palestinian people and their leadership – that is a single binationalist state”, he said.
According to correspondents, chances to achieve a two-state peace deal are slim, before next January, when George W. Bush, US president, will leave office, a deadline put forward by Whashington and signed to by both sides.
Fighting multiple corruption allegations against him, Ehud Olmert, Israeli prime minister plans to resign in the coming weeks.
Though the revived peace process that he spearheaded along with Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian leader, has seen regular bi-lateral meetings, it produced little visible progress.
The future status of Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem and Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank are two sticking points.
And matters have also been complicated by internal Palestinian strife, with the Hamas movement that opposes a permanent two-state deal continuing control of the Gaza Strip, in defiance of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority.
For years, Mr Qurei has been one of the most vocal Palestinian advocates of the plan of setting up an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, and his statement could be a significant change of heart, say observers.
But a binational state stays a distant prospect, as Israel retains considerable military and diplomatic superiority over the Palestinians, thanks to US backing.
In 2002, the US got behing the two-state formula, but subsequently it also supported Israel’s goal of retaining land beyond the 1967 borders where large populations of its citizens has been settled by Israel.