Saturday, November 13, 2004

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World: "Iranian official proposes one-state solution
By ASSOCIATED PRESS



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A former Iranian president put forward his own solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute on Friday: Israel and the Palestinian territories should unite under one government, which would be elected by all Jewish and Arab residents, as well as the Palestinian refugees in neighboring states.

The proposal by Hashemi Rafsanjani marked an evolution as Iranian policy-makers have long insisted that Jewish immigrants to Israel had no right to live there.

The Iranian government has never recognized Israel nor approved of its interim peace accords with the Palestinians. It has called for the destruction of Israel, saying that is the only way to resolve the Middle East conflict.

"Let's organize free elections in Palestine under the auspices of Islamic countries and the United Nations," Rafsanjani told tens of thousands of worshippers at his Friday prayers sermon in Tehran. "Let the Jews brought (to Palestine) be there, and also Palestinian refugees ... all Palestinians."

"Let them all participate in elections, and choose their government democratically, which would be acceptable to the whole world.

"Let Jews, Christians and Muslims live together. The United Nations, world powers and Muslims would guarantee the security of this government," he said.

Rafsanjani said Israel's supporters, including the United States, fear that Jews would lose such an election because Palestinians would be in the majority, but his proposal would allow recent Jewish immigrants to Israel to vote.

"This will be a retreat (from our past policy), but a retreat to avoid so many crimes," he said, referring to the current violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Rafsanjani, who was president in 1989-97, chairs the Expediency Council, a powerful body that arbitrates between the parliament and another council that vets legislation.

Before the sermon, Rafsanjani took part in a rally to mark Jerusalem Day, where he said Thursday's death of Palestinian leader Yasser Aright was a loss to the Palestinian nation, but also an opportunity.

"Definitely, the death of Arafat will create new conditions in Palestine, and Palestinian leaders should not allow discord among themselves," Rafsanjani told the rally.

Iranians commemorate Jerusalem Day on the last Friday of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as a protest against Israel's occupation of east Jerusalem. The Al-Aksa mosque in east Jerusalem is the third holiest shrine in Islam, after those in the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina."

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