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Palestinian statehood fades

A suicide attack on Monday that killed 14 casts more doubt on the viability of a Palestinian state.

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US Undersecretary of State William Burns arrives in Israel today bearing a road map to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even as he does, analysts here say the basic concept underlying Middle East peace efforts – a state for both peoples – is becoming obsolete.

The road map, part of a US push to muster regional support for war against Iraq, outlines steps to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The idea of co-existing states, based on a land-for-peace formula, has been the blueprint for peace efforts for more than a decade. But as Mr. Burns arrives to tout the latest incarnation, Israelis and Palestinians are increasingly questioning whether an independent Palestinian entity is even feasible.

"If we were offered [a state] now it might be viable, but I don't know if it will be practical in three, five, seven years," says Palestinian Minister of Labor Ghassan Khatib. "Given political reality, the settlement policy, and the radicalization of Palestinian politics, I think that every day the viability of the two-state solution is less and less."

Widening gulf of mistrust

Analysts point to the steady sprawl of Israeli construction in the Occupied Territories, the vast gulf of mutual distrust that has widened over two years of bitter fighting and a lack of political will.

"Looking at the situation objectively it's hard to resist the conclusion that the two-state idea is in deep trouble," says one diplomat.

"That puts us in a very dangerous situation indeed. If you don't have a two-state solution you have a one-state solution, one state with two classes of citizens if that state is to have a Jewish character or a democratic secular state in Palestine, which means the death of Israel within 10 years."

Finger-pointing is rampant, with each side accusing the other of lacking the political resolve to make two states work. Israelis see Monday's bus bombing, which killed 14 and wounded around 50, as another example of the Palestinian failure to keep up their end of the land-for-peace bargain.

While Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemned the attack, claimed by Islamic Jihad, Israel's leadership declared Mr. Arafat responsible "by direct commission or omission" for the blast.

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