West Bank Palestinian State a Non-Starter, Palestinian Says

Julie Stahl | December 2, 2008 | 11:40am EST
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Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) – The Palestinian Authority refuses to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank only, senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Tuesday.
Erekat was responding to a report in Tuesday’s Washington Times indicating that a Palestinian state could be established even before Hamas and the Palestinian Authority resolve the internal feud between them.
Maen Rashid Areikat, a Palestinian negotiator, was quoted in the Washington Times as saying that the P.A. would agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, which the Gaza Strip could join later if Hamas gives up control there.
“It will be difficult. We would prefer to see a situation where there is national unity. We are not trying to eliminate Hamas. It’s a force to be reckoned with…but if we don’t agree, the PLO is mandated to continue negotiations,” Areikat was quoted as saying.
“That’s absolutely unfounded. Baseless,” Erekat told CNSNews.com. Erekat said that Areikat is part of his team and he said Areikat has denied saying that the Palestinians would accept a partial state.
The Palestinians are insisting on a state encompassing the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. There will be no partial agreements, as Israel and P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas stated at a recent meeting in Sharm el-Shekih, Egypt, Erekat said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted for the first time in November that the Israelis and Palestinians will not reach an agreement by the end of the year, as President Bush had hoped.
The Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to continue negotiations that were revived at the U.S.-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, last year. But the political situation for both is uncertain.
Israelis are scheduled to elect a new leader in mid-February. According to opinion polls, a rightwing government headed by Likud party leader and former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is favored to win.
Netanyahu wants to scrap the current process in favor of what he calls an “economic” peace plan – building the Palestinian economy and social infrastructure before continuing the political process.
Palestinian leaders reject the idea.
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