Palestinians may demand a 'one-state solution'

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The Independent Online

In a move that could transform the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qureia has warned that he will demand a single state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians, if Ariel Sharon goes ahead with his threat to annex parts of the West Bank and unilaterally impose a border on a Palestinian state.

Mr Qureia's plan, if implemented, could mean the end of the "two-state solution", the vision of a Palestinian state alongside Israel that formed the basis of the Oslo peace process and has been at the heart of all peace accords since.

The alternative Mr Qureia described, a "one-state solution", is many Israelis' worst nightmare. What Mr Qureia was describing is a single state in all of Israel together with the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip with equal rights for Palestinians. Israelis fear Jews would quickly become a minority in such a state: recent demographic studies predict that, because of their higher birth rate, there will be more Palestinians than Jews in the whole area by 2020.

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, swiftly announced that the US would oppose any Palestinian call for a one-state solution. The US has also said it opposes Mr Sharon's threats of an imposed settlement.