New settlements threaten two-state outcome

Palestinians and Israeli moderates have blasted a plan to build over 550 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, saying it threatens any two-state solution.

    Continued settlement in the Palestinian territories make a peaceful solution less likely

    About 530 of the new homes are to be built in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Elit near Bethlehem, 11 in the settlement of Maaleh Adumim and another 24 in Ariel, the ministry, the Israeli housing ministry announced on Thursday.

    The chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat warned that the

    moves were "killing" attempts for a two state settlement - an

    outcome which some Israelis warn could have devastating consequences

    for the Jewish state.

    Palestinians have long feared that the growth in Israeli

    settlements which pockmark the maps of the West Bank and Gaza Strip

    were undermining the viability of any future independent state.

    The Israeli government is obliged under the terms of the

    "road map" for peace - a blueprint endorsed by both the Palestinians

    and Israelis which would lead to a two-state settlement by 2005 -

    to halt all settlement activity.

    Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli minister who was one of the chief

    architects of the Oslo peace accords, said the latest settlement

    announcement appeared designed to scupper such a solution.

    "Settlement activity is ideologically motivated in order to

    prevent a two state settlement," Beilin told AFP. "This activity is

    working against it."

    Peres' demographic warning

    "If a division of territory is not effected within a decade, the

    Arab minority will have become an Arab majority. Israel will no

    longer be a Jewish state - or (it will) stop being a democratic state"

    Shimon Peres,
    Former Israeli prime minister

    Former Israeli premier Shimon Peres, who was awarded the Nobel

    Peace Prize in 1994 for his work on the Oslo accords, warned

    recently that the Palestinians and Arab Israelis were winning the

    demographic race.

    "If a division of territory is not effected within a decade, the

    Arab minority will have become an Arab majority. Israel will no

    longer be a Jewish state - or (it will) stop being a democratic state," Peres

    argued in the International Herald Tribune.

    "A Jewish state is not a religious notion but a democratic one:

    the creation of one place in the world where the Jewish people are

    in the majority."

    William Burns, the US assistant secretary of state whose brief

    covers the Middle East, also said in a speech earlier this week that

    the demographic trends meant it was vital for Israel to agree to a

    two-state settlement.

    "As Israeli settlements expand, and their populations increase,

    it becomes increasingly difficult to see how the two peoples will be

    separated into two states," said Burns.

    "The fact is that settlements continue to grow today ... And this

    persists even as it becomes clear that the logic of settlements and

    the reality of demographics could threaten the future of Israel as a

    Jewish democracy." 

    Under US law, the United States must penalise Israel for settlements in Palestinian areas by withholding the exact amount spent on such activity from the $9 billion in promised loan guarantees.

    Washington has also said it may deduct from those guarantees the amount Israel spends on portions of its apartheid wall that intrudes into Palestinian territory.



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