Israel has been seeking assurances from Washington that the U.S. would not recognize a unilateral declaration of independence by Arafat next year. But despite Netanyahuís resistance, polls consistently show that 70 to 80 percent of Israelis are resigned to the inevitability of a Palestinian state. Says Beyer, "When the Oslo Accords were signed, everyone involved understood that the process would ultimately lead to a Palestinian state -- why else would the Palestinians have signed?"
Hillary Rodham Clintonís remarks yesterday supporting the creation of a Palestinian state are unlikely to help the U.S. force Israel to accept a 13 percent withdrawal from the West Bank. "The reason the Israelis are fighting over every inch of territory now is that they believe, whatever the outcome of negotiations, Arafat plans to declare an independent state," says TIME Jerusalem bureau chief Lisa Beyer -- and thatís a prospect Netanyahu flatly rejects.