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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
Q&A: A Palestinian state?
With Washington looking for support from Arab and Islamic states for its war on terrorism, there appears to be an increasing international momentum for the establishment of a Palestinian state. BBC News Online looks at the main issues behind efforts to push the peace process forward.

Where does the new diplomatic momentum for a Palestinian state come from?

Washington needs the support of the Arab and Muslim world in the war against terrorism.

US officials have been hoping that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would drop into the background, making it easier to ensure the support of Arab and Muslim governments and to carry Arab and Muslim public opinion.

President George W Bush recently said the creation of a Palestinian state had always been part of Washington's vision.

This is in principle true, but analysts have pointed out that baldly stating this vision represents a dramatic shift of emphasis for the US.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's call for the creation of a viable Palestinian state after a negotiated settlement guaranteeing peace and security for Israel is part of this new diplomatic effort.

Is this new momentum real or is it a ploy?

The more cynical analysts have argued that the main reason Mr Bush and Mr Blair are talking of a Palestinian state so enthusiastically is to shore up their coalition against terror.

US and UK officials dispute this. Washington has said that a major diplomatic effort on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was put off because of the events of 11 September.

British officials point to recent attempts to end the regional violence, such as the Mitchell report, as evidence that peace efforts are ongoing.

Along with the talk of a Palestinian state, Washington has put tremendous pressure on Palestinian and Israeli officials to try to relaunch a ceasefire and calm the violence.

What is behind Israeli complaints about the appeasement of Arab governments?

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has responded angrily to the change of approach in Washington and London.

"Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense," Mr Sharon said. "It is unacceptable. Israel will not be another Czechoslovakia."

Though he then tried to temper his remarks, Mr Sharon is clearly angered by what he sees as a risk that Israeli security interests may be sacrificed to the wider interest of maintaining the international coalition.

Mr Sharon's attempts to brand Mr Arafat a terrorist leader have not been successful - as the Palestinian leader's visit to London has shown.

What about the continuing violence?

American pressure appeared to bring about a reduction in Palestinian-Israeli violence.

There was a period of quiet, and Israeli tanks pulled back to positions held before the beginning of the latest intifada - or uprising - against Israeli occupation.

There was also some Israeli-Palestinian security co-operation aimed at foiling attacks by militants.

This appears to be breaking down. Israel has resumed it policy of targeted assassinations against Palestinians it believes are planning attacks against Israel.

Mr Sharon argues that he is responding to Palestinian violence and that the Palestinian Authority is failing to contain the militants.

In early October, there were two Palestinian suicide bomb attacks, one of which killed an Israeli, and Palestinian militants have fired on Israeli settlers.

Is Yasser Arafat still in control?

After the ceasefire agreement at the end of September, Mr Arafat seemed sincere in trying to calm the violence.

With the recent violence, it appears that the ceasefire and the security co-operation have come to nothing, whatever Mr Arafat's intentions.

Israeli officials have for a long time accused Yasser Arafat of failing to contain militant groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad who carry out attacks on Israel and on Jewish settlements.

However, analysts are now increasingly arguing that Mr Arafat is in no position to control them.

With the start of the US-led strikes on Afghanistan in early October Mr Arafat appeared even less in control.

Palestinian police came down hard on protests in support of Osama Bin Laden. Three Palestinians were killed as protesters stoned and burnt buildings belonging to their own security forces in the Gaza strip.


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