- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 8, 2001

JERUSALEM The Israeli and Palestinian leaderships are reportedly planning to formulate proposals in the next few days for the creation of a Palestine, but for different places.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is considering the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly in New York, according to the London Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat. Such a state would include the Gaza Strip and the West Bank within its pre-1967 borders.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has formulated his own proposal for a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip alone that would in time extend to the West Bank as well, which Israel would propose to the United States as a first step in a renewed peace process.
Mr. Peres is expected to meet tomorrow with right-wing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has expressed interest in hammering out a joint political plan with his left-wing foreign minister that could be presented to President Bush when Mr. Sharon meets with him later this month.
Neither approach is considered realistic but they reflect a desire to find a political alternative.
According to the Al-Hayat report, Mr. Arafat hopes that the declaration of a Palestinian state would bring international involvement.
However, the United States is almost certain not to recognize such a unilateral declaration. Neither are many other Western countries who want instead a settlement between the Palestinians and Israel. Another difficulty is that the Israeli army now occupies more than half the territory of the proposed state.
Last week, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Ahmed Qurei, proposed a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state to be followed by negotiations over the relations of the state with Israel.
Mr. Peres sees the creation of a ministate in the Gaza Strip as a foundation stone upon which a full-fledged state could be built after a measure of goodwill has been achieved. A main incentive for the Palestinians would be major infusions of Western funds.
The plan revives Mr. Peres' vision of a "new Middle East" with aid and investments rivaling that of the Marshall Plan, which revived war-torn Europe after World War II. He calls for an "economic Benelux" of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan that would set up a free-trade zone and become associate members of the European Union.
Palestinian officials yesterday rejected Mr. Peres' reported plan.
"We know what they want," said one Palestinian Authority official. "They will give the Palestinians Gaza and then engage for another 50 years in discussions over the West Bank and Jerusalem."
Palestinian skepticism would appear to be justified on the basis of Mr. Sharon's comments earlier this week on the Peres plan. "As I understand it," the official said, "it does not include the removal of [Israeli] settlements" in the Gaza Strip.
However, according to leaked reports from Mr. Peres' camp, the plan does include evacuation of the Israeli settlements in Gaza in order to provide the Palestinians with a contiguous strip of territory.


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