A Palestinian state is a foregone conclusion in a formal sense but not in its essentials. Yasir Arafat will immediately declare a state on May 4th and it will be recognized by an overwhelming number of governments around the world. But a Palestinian state differs from the Palestinian Authority only if it controls foreign and defense policies. In this sense, the Palestinian state will be formalistic, not real. Until and unless Israel accepts it, the Palestinian state will remain a shell.
When a state is declared, the results will be severely adverse for Palestinians and Israelis alike. This flagrant breach of the Oslo accords will cause economic relations to diminish further and violence to increase. The proclamation of a state will likely exacerbate the great schisms of Israeli politics, left-right and secular-religious, leading to an even more erratic Israeli policy on this issue.
The United States and Israel are more important in this case, as in so many others, than the other 180 nations. I hope they will not just refuse to recognize the Palestinian state by make it very clear to Arafat and the Palestinian Authority that a unilateral declaration will be costly to the Palestinians. Continued negotiations are the sensible alternative to a unilateral declaration of independence. The issues are difficult and the process protracted; there can be no arbitrary date for the conclusion of negotiations, for this merely invites Palestinian procrastination. For negotiations to succeed, the process must go on until its natural conclusion.