In April 2003, the US together with the EU, UN and Russia (known as the Quartet) released its roadmap that outlined a three-stage programme leading to an independent Palestinian state by 2005. By 2010, no Palestine state had been constituted because of Israels defiant policy of continuing illegal settlements in Palestinian lands with impunity. The Palestinian leadership walked out of the peace talks, revived by the US three months ago, in anger at Israels refusal to extend a halt on building settlements in the communities, which is viewed as illegal by the international community. The Palestinians have said that if there were no renewed negotiation effort, they would go to the UN Security Council with a unilateral declaration of statehood. Since the collapse of the peace talks and Israels refusal to renew the settlement-building moratorium settlers have laid foundations for hundreds of new homes, according to the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now. The Palestinians have responded by preparing a UN draft resolution condemning the settlements, which, in the West Bank, are home to 300,000 Israelis, with 200,000 living in East Jerusalem. It is noted that the state of Palestine is currently recognised by more than 100 countries, including Bangladesh. Israel is not the legal sovereign of the occupied territory. It has held the occupied territory illegally under international law since 1967. Palestine is also an observer member in the UN. On February 21, 2010, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said: One can envision the proclamation soon of a Palestinian state, and its immediate recognition by the international community even before negotiating borders. The reported French statement has been very significant in two ways. First, it demolishes Israels argument that Palestinian state cannot be recognised until borders are negotiated between Israeli and Palestinian leaderships. Second, recognition of a state has nothing to do with the borders of states, which are to be settled or negotiated. For example, current recognition of Israel by other states does not recognise Israels claimed borders or its claim on whole city of Jerusalem. In December 2010, five Latin American states - Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay and Brazil - officially declared recognition to a Palestinian state inside the borders which were in place before the 1967 Six Day war, during which Israel took control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Some European nations have upgraded diplomatic relations with the Palestinians. So far, Washington has said it would not back the anti-settlement resolution, but other countries which have become increasingly frustrated by the deadlock in talks and the continued rate of settlement expansion - with Britain among them - may offer some support to declaration of a Palestine state. The US may throw its weight behind growing support for a unilateral declaration of statehood if Israel does not resume Middle East peace talks, an Israeli minister has warned. In the first admission by a senior Israeli official that a rift with its key ally threatened a shift in US policy, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, the Trade and Industry Minister, recently urged the resumption of talks with the Palestinians - even if it meant bowing to their demands for a renewed freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank. We must do everything possible to get to dialogue with the Palestinians, even if it costs us a settlement freeze for a few months, Ben-Eliezer, a doyen of the Labour Party, the junior partner in the governing coalition, told a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. I wouldnt be surprised if within one year the whole world supports a Palestinian state, including the US. Then well ask where we were and what we were doing. Israeli diplomats have been rushing to ascertain the possible response of key countries to such a resolution amid fears that President Obama, having been thwarted in his peace efforts, might concentrate on other regions for the remaining two years of his term. Ben-Eliezers warning is also likely to increase tensions in the Israeli coalition as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu strives to satisfy hardliners and pro-talks factions. Amid the political tension there were fresh clashes in and around Gaza on the eve of the second anniversary of the Israeli offensive to smash Hamas and stop militants firing rockets into southern Israel, an operation dubbed Cast Lead by the Israeli army. With both sides talking up the chances of another war in the south, Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships opened fire on Islamic Jihad members who were trying to plant bombs close to the Israeli-controlled border fence with Gaza, killing two people. More rockets were fired out of the Gaza Strip into Israel, despite some of the heaviest airstrikes since the 2008 month-long war by Israeli forces last week. The increased rocket fire has ramped up tensions, especially after Israel admitted that one of its tanks had been hit by an advanced Russian-made anti-tank missile that had been smuggled into the besieged strip by Hamas. The Quartet must put pressure on Israel to halt illegal settlements in occupied West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, and create an environment in which both states - Israel and Palestine - could live peacefully with secure and viable borders. A Palestinian state must not be fragmented by illegal Israeli settlements within its territory. A dimension of equity in this case is the single standard of morality and law for all countries in the region. One law is for Israel and another for Palestinians will never work because it constitutes a double standards. To enforce a policy of double standards on Palestinians will only generate resistance and defiance. King Abdullah II of Jordan some time ago made it clear that the continued denial of Palestinian rights is a fire-starter. If you do not fix the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you cannot have stability in the region. We will pay the price for what I think may be the last opportunity. Harun ur Rashid is a former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva. Daily Star, Bangladesh