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Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories

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The “S” word

March 3, 2009

Hillary ClintonHillary Clinton visited Jerusalem today for the first time as Secretary of State. Note that last word. It’s become central to diplomacy and Israeli domestic politics. State. The Palestinians want one. Hillary Clinton, echoing her predecessor Condoleezza Rice, said they should have one. She told Israelis that a Palestinian state was in their best interests. But many Israelis are not so sure, including allies of incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanayahu. And many Palestinians are losing hope of getting one. We looked at some of the issues in an analysis today, speaking to experts and policymakers.

But what of the ordinary people on the ground? We spoke to them too. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Hani Mohammed, 42, an engineer from Tulkarm in the Israeli-occupied West Bank: “Only wishful thinkers believe in the so-called ‘two-state solution’. I cannot think of any Israeli leader, loyal to his country, who would agree to give up the West Bank.”

Haitham Yousef, 38, a bank clerk at Qalqilya, West Bank: “I am with the two-state solution because it’s the only way out. But the coming of a right-wing government (in Israel) would kill this vision by increasing the number of (Jewish) settlements on our land.”

Mohammed Rezik, 35, a teacher in Gaza: “With or without Netanyahu in office, a Palestinian state is a dream that will take a long time to materialise. So far it’s all just talk. First we (Palestinians) need to unite, the Israelis need to believe in a peaceful settlement and the world must support the establishment of a Palestinian state just as it backed the creation of Israel.”

Emad Abu Abdallah, 40, a Gaza taxi driver: “What do you mean by a two-state solution? Do you mean we recognise Israel? No, we cannot, Hamas does not want to.”

Gila Fine, 27, an Israeli academic editor in Jerusalem: “The biggest impediment to any sort of agreement lies with the Palestinians. I don’t see any possibility of achieving an agreement, no.”

Menachem Eitan, 45, a businessman from Givatayim, Israel: “I don’t see the idea of two nation states gaining any momentum. Any right-wing government would probably oppose it.”

Moshe Sadeh, 62, an Israeli accountant in Jerusalem: “No two-state solution is possible. These people aren’t willing to make peace with us, they just want a piece of us. Hillary Clinton is wasting her time here.”

So what do you think?

(PICTURE by Asmaa Waguih, REUTERS/Sharm el-Sheikh, March 2)

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