Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Israeli settlements buried two-state solution -expert

JERUSALEM, March 23 (Reuters) - A dovish Israeli expert who predicted Israel's settlement campaign would perpetuate its control of the occupied West Bank said pursuing a two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a "waste of time."

Meron Benvenisti, a Harvard-educated historian known for his study of Israeli building on land it captured in the 1967 war, said he expected Israel's occupation of territory would "continue for a long time" and that peace talks should focus instead on power sharing in Israel and the West Bank.

"The fight for the two-state solution is obsolete," Benvenisti, 76, told a news conference on Tuesday.

The political split in Palestinian loyalties between the Fatah-dominated West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza, plus Israel's control of 60 percent of West Bank land, made it unlikely a Palestinian state could soon be founded, he said.

With Israel seeking to keep large settlement blocs under any deal, Benvenisti said only 40 percent of West Bank land was actually up for discussion, making Palestinian statehood unviable.

Even Western aid to the Palestinians of an annual $2 billion, which is intended to boost the economy, is really perpetuating Israeli control in the West Bank by funding Palestinian adaptation to the fact of occupation, he added.

"We have to change the vocabulary of the conflict," Benvenisti said. He called for dropping the two-state paradigm for discussion of a joint "bi-national regime."

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