Places in World Most Likely to Secede Palestine

About Palestine a place in the world likely to secede from Israel, size, population, and history of conflict.

MOST LIKELY TO SECEDE

PALESTINE

Size: About 5,000 sq. mi. (12,950 sq. km.), assuming it to consist of the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan River, the Gaza Strip, and a corridor connecting the two.

Population: About 3 million, spread out over several Mideast countries.

The proponents of a Palestinian state received a valuable and powerful non-Arab ally in March, 1977, when Pres. Jimmy Carter rose in Clinton, Mass., to declare that the Middle East problem can never be solved until the legitimate rights of the Palestinians are acknowledged and a homeland is provided for them. But in Middle East diplomacy, not everything is as it seems. By calling for a Palestine "homeland," Carter was not proposing (indeed, few Arabs are expecting) an independent Palestinian state, but rather a geographic entity with definable borders bound in some sort of confederation with Jordan.

The pros and cons of a Palestinian state are complex and hopelessly tangled in the perennial Arab-Israeli conflict. Basically the arguments break down this way:

Pro: Palestinians have as much right to carve out a nation in the Middle East as the Jews. Driven from their homes by the Israeli occupation of Arab territory in 1967, Palestinians thus are entitled to a homeland at the expense of Israel.

Con: If Palestinians are allowed to settle on the West Bank of Jordan, even under a good-faith Jordanian protectorate, the area will become a staging ground for terrorist attacks against Israel. Palestinian extremists have never accepted the right of Israel to exist; why should Israel now help create a government bent on its destruction?

Israel refuses to negotiate with the radical Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) until it recognizes Israel's right to exist, though Tel Aviv is willing to deal with non-PLO Palestinians. For its part, the PLO insists that it should have the right to choose its own negotiators. One PLO spokesman went so far as to vow to kill any Palestinian who dares show up in Geneva without PLO approval.

Another obstacle to a Palestinian homeland is the policy of the Israeli government to build Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank--land presumably to be part of any future Palestinian nation. Indeed, Jerusalem planners are projecting the settlement of some 2 million Jews there by the end of this century--a policy hardly compatible with the prospect of a Palestine state.

Still, many Palestinians are confident of achieving independence one day. In fact, the PLO already has a 293-member legislature waiting in the closet. Known as the Palestine National Council, the assembly is a volatile mix of Palestinians of every political stripe, from Abu Daud, who allegedly engineered the Munich massacre, to Edward Said, a very respected American of Palestinian descent who teaches English at Columbia University.

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