- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2004

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia’s threat to push for a unitary state with Israel drew a severe and well-deserved rebuke last week from Secretary of State Colin Powell. Mr. Qureia warned that he would abandon the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict envisioned in President Bush’s road map for Middle East peace if Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refuses to halt construction of a security barrier in the West Bank.

Mr. Qureia denounced the barrier, calling it an “apartheid” measure that would “put the Palestinians in cantons.” Unless Mr. Sharon stops building the barrier (which Israel says is necessary to prevent suicide bombers and other terrorists from targeting its population), Palestinians “will go for a one-state solution,” Mr. Qureia declared. He suggested that Palestinians have no alternative given Israel’s insistence on destroying their rights.

Within the Bush administration, few senior officials have proven to be as sympathetic to the Palestinians as Mr. Powell. In recent months, for example, the State Department has been very forceful in leaning on Israel to change the route of the barrier to minimize the amount of disruption it would cause to Palestinian civilians. That’s why his blunt response to Mr. Qureia’s remarks was so striking.

Mr. Powell defended Mr. Sharon, observing that the barrier was only a contingency plan in the event that the Palestinians fail to become a “reliable partner” for peace with Israel. In order for this to happen (and, by implication, end the need for the barrier), Mr. Powell urged Mr. Qureia to do something he will eventually need to do if the peace process is to move forward: Wrest control of Palestinian security forces away from Yasser Arafat and take action to uproot terrorist groups.

“What we need right now is for the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority to get control of the security forces and to use those forces and use the other tools available to him to put down terror and to put down violence,” Mr. Powell said. He added that William Burns, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, would visit the region in an effort to persuade Egypt and other Arab parties to pressure the Palestinian Authority to take action against Palestinian terrorist groups.

Mr. Powell was also very forceful — and rightly so — in shooting down Mr. Qureia’s dubious idea for the idea of a unitary Arab-Jewish state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. There are approximately 5.5 million Israeli Jews and approximately 4.6 million Arabs (3.5 million in the West Bank and Gaza, and more than 1 million in Israel ) living in this region. Given the higher Arab birthrate, this would virtually ensure that the Jews would become a minority within Israel in the coming decades. The idea is nothing more than a formula for Israel’s destruction — not a serious proposal for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. If Mr. Qureia wants such genuine peace to become a reality and the security barrier to come down, he needs to take action against the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinians’ midst.

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