PLO official says two-state solution still possible for Israel, Palestine

By Kathryn Gregory, Charleston Gazette

Via Charleston Gazette (click for original)
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians is still possible, but the longer it takes the governing bodies to come to an agreement, the less the solution will satisfy everyone involved, a Palestinian leader told a Charleston audience Tuesday.
"Everyday that goes by without an agreement, we get further away from peace," said Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat, chief Palestinian Liberation Organization representative to the United States. "[Chances for peace] will be better today than two years down the road."
Areikat was at the University of Charleston Tuesday night for the UC speaker series "Seeking Middle Ground in the Middle East." UC President Ed Welch moderated the discussion, which was sponsored by sponsored by the Dow Chemical Foundation.
The crux of the issue between the two peoples, Areikat said, are the Palestinian refugees, whom he said number in the hundreds of thousands. Palestinians believe that with a two-state solution, refugees who fled their homeland when Israel was formed should be allowed to return.
But Israelis do not agree, Areikat said. If refugees did return to Israel, they would outnumber Jewish residents in the region and undermine the existence of Israel, he said.
The outstanding issue of refugees is a sticking point for both sides, preventing an agreement -- something Areikat said must come sooner or later or the chance for peace may pass.
"The only way to achieve peace and stability in the region is the realization of two states," he said.
"Israel should be concerned about the prospect of not achieving a two-state solution," he said. If two states are not achieved, and one collective state is formed, the number of non-Jewish people in the region would severally outnumber the Jewish residents, negating the theory of a Jewish state.
"If Israel wants to maintain its special character it is in their best interest to reach a solution," he said.