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Israeli intellectuals endorse Palestinian state

By Reuters
Thursday, April 21, 2011 15:19 EDT
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TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Barely audible above the chants of “traitor,” an Israeli actress who lost a leg in a Palestinian attack read out on Thursday a declaration by Israeli intellectuals endorsing the creation of a Palestinian state.

The event, attended by dozens of left-wing artists and academics, was held outside the hall where Israelis united to declare independence in 1948. Sixty-three years later, deep divisions over Israel’s future played out at the historic venue.

Right-wing demonstrators were out in force, heckling and sounding horns, as Hanna Maron, the 87-year-old grande dame of Israeli theater, struggled to make herself heard on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard.

She read from a “Declaration of Independence from the Occupation” that she and some 50 other peace activists signed ahead of an expected Palestinian bid to win broad endorsement of statehood at the U.N. General Assembly in September.

In 1970, the German-born Maron was wounded when Palestinian militants attacked passengers waiting to board an Israeli airliner at Munich airport. One of her legs was amputated, but she continued to perform on stage and on television.

“We are here assembled … to welcome the coming Declaration of Independence of the Palestinian State,” the document said, calling for its creation, alongside Israel, on the basis of what is “known today as the ’67 borders.”

Israel’s government opposes any one-sided steps and has said that a peace deal may be reached only through direct talks.

Palestinian Authority leaders, citing an impasse in peace talks that collapsed last year over the issue of Jewish settlements, say they will aim to seek U.N. recognition for statehood in all the territory captured by Israel in a 1967 war.

That would include the Islamist Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, over which the Western-backed Palestinian Authority has no control. Israel withdrew settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 but still largely controls the territory’s borders.

More than 100 nations have said they recognize Palestine as a state. But full U.N. membership would also require Security Council approval, diplomats say, a development they see as unlikely given U.S. reservations about unilateral moves.

The left-wing group, whose members include prize-winning writers, artists, professors and a former cabinet minister, Shulamit Aloni, demanded “the complete end of occupation,” referring to the lines that existed before Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza Strip some 44 years ago.

Limor Livnat, Israel’s culture and sport minister, and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, said she respected the Israel Prize laureates who signed the declaration, but did not agree with “their extreme views.”

“This is a group that is acting to spread a wrong message and is causing Israel serious harm internationally,” she said on Israeli radio.

(Additional reporting by Tom Perry in Ramallah; writing by Jeffrey Heller and Allyn Fisher-Ilan; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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