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Palestinians threaten their own unilateral initiatives (JERUSALEM POST) By KHALED ABU TOAMEH 01/10/04) Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1073535534693
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Echoing Israeli announcements of unilateral plans, the Palestinian Authority on Friday threatened to unilaterally declare a "democratic" Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem.
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The announcement was made following a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee and representatives of various Palestinian factions that was chaired by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat in his office in Ramallah.
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The PA made a similar threat in September 2000 - the date fixed by the Oslo Accord to reach a final settlement - but backed off under Israeli and international pressure.
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"The Palestinians have a right to establish a democratic state in all the territories conquered in 1967, and Jerusalem would be the capital of this state," the Palestinian leadership said in a statement.
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The decision is seen as a response to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon´s plan for unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians. PA officials have expressed deep concern that Sharon´s plan would leave the Palestinians with less than 50 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip land, rendering it impossible to fulfill their dream of establishing an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.
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Echoing the Palestinian fears of an Israeli unilateral pullout from parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, PA Prime Minister Ahemd Qurei threatened on Thursday to declare a "bi-national" state unless Israel halted the construction of the separation fence.
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However, PA officials have rejected Qurei´s plan, saying the Palestinians are entitled to their own independent state on all the territories captured in the Six Day War.
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A statement issued by the PA after Friday´s meeting did not make any mention of Qurei´s proposal for a "bi-national" state. It said the Palestinian leadership "believes that it has the right, in accordance with international resolutions and agreements signed [with Israel], to declare a democratic Palestinian state on all the territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem as its capital."
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"This is nothing less than a threat to put an end to the state of Israel as a Jewish state, and we categorically reject it," a senior Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
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"Instead of threatening us, Mr. Qurei would be best advised to come back to the negotiations table and start implementing the roadmap," he said.
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Zalman Shoval said: "Mr. Abu Ala has threatened to call for a binational state, but he may just as well call for a Palestinian state on the moon."
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But some Israelis viewed Qurei´s "binational" threat as an interesting development, if only because it illustrates the hopelessness of the current track. "This is a very significant statement from Abu Ala," said Joseph Alpher, a former official in the Israeli Defense Ministry. "I think it´s kind of a trial balloon and also an attempt to put pressure on the United States and Israel. It may be one more nail in the coffin of the two-state solution."
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US Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters at a news conference that the US is "committed to a two-state solution." He said: "I believe that´s the only solution that will work, a state for the Palestinian people called Palestine, and a Jewish state, the state of Israel which exists."
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"I don´t believe that we can accept a situation that results in anything one might characterize as apartheid or bantuism," Powell added. "What we need right now is for the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority to get control of security forces and to use those forces and use the other tools available to him to put down terror and to put down violence. And if that happens and we see that kind of commitment, then I´m confident that we can move forward on the road map."
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"Mr. Sharon´s comments recently and some of the plans that he has talked about or have been speculated about are just that right now, plans. Mr. Sharon begins all of his discussions by saying he would like to see a solution. He is looking for a reliable partner he can work with. And his plans that he has spent some time presenting recently suggest what he feels he might have to do if he doesn´t have a reliable partner. What we are trying to do is to get that reliable partner to stand up and start acting."
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The deadline for a provisional Palestinian state under the US road map passed last month with the sides in a complete stalemate. Powell is dispatching Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns to Egypt next week to evaluate progress on ceasefire talks that could put a halt, at least temporarily, to attacks on Israelis by Palestinians. With Janine Zacharia and AP (© 1995-2004, The Jerusalem Post 01/10/04)
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