It's no surprise that the Palestine Liberation Organization is rushing in with plans for a government-in-exile or a provisional government in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Such a move was expected when King Hussein of Jordan renounced all authority over those territories.
What is less clear is where all this will lead.The chances of the PLO being able to work out with Israel the creation of an independent Palestinian state do not appear sanguine. There are many obstacles to such an outcome:
**Israel adamantly refuses to talk with the PLO - calling it a terrorist organization - despite pleas for negotiations from the PLO leadership. Even signals that the PLO will officially acknowledge Israel's right to exist are coldly rebuffed.
**While a government-in-exile may be formed by the PLO - and recognized by most Arab states - any plans for a provisional PLO government inside the territories themselves have little chance to succeed. All parties in Israel have vowed to crush any such attempt to organize.
**Israeli settlers have gradually taken over portions of the West Bank and are unlikely to be removed. With Jordan out of the picture, there is a temptation for Israel to simply annex the territories it has held since the 1967 Six Day War.
**Proposals that Jerusalem serve as the capital of an independent Palestinian state - an idea discussed by the PLO - would be vehemently rejected by Israel.
**The absence of King Hussein, while it leaves the field open to the PLO to represent the Palestinians, also removes the one figure who might have served as an acceptable middleman between Israel and the PLO. Certainly, that was the scenario the U.S. had been pursuing.
Despite these formidable problems, Israel cannot continue to ignore the Palestinian question. The uprisings in the occupied territories have come from a sense of despair. Despite the deaths of more than 240 Palestinians, the unrest continues.
Annexing the territories or simply occupying them indefinitely would not work, either. The ordinary growth of the Palestinian population, with its higher birth rates, will eventually leave Israel as a minority trying to rule a subjugated majority, the very problem plaguing South Africa.
Israel cannot simply continue to say "no" to every attempt to work out a Palestinian solution. Somewhere, somehow there must be a change in attitude and a clear-cut policy worked out for the future.
This might be a good time, while all is in flux - including PLO and Palestinian attitudes - for Israel to try something different as well.