Trust between Israelis and Palestinians has broken down completely during the past 30 months of Intifada. Even before then, when peace negotiations were at their height, the two parties agreed that the nature of the problems and tensions to be dealt with by any final status agreement warranted an international monitoring component of some sort: for example, at Palestine's borders with the Arab world, in the Jordan Valley, and in ensuring compliance with regard to a variety of additional security issues.
Both Palestinians and Israelis understood even then that their peace would not resemble the peace between Israel and Jordan, where no international forces are involved, or even the Israeli-Egyptian peace, where an American-led military force patrols a demilitarized and largely empty desert that separates the armies of the two sides. Indeed, if only there were a desert between Israelis and Palestinians, we would have far fewer problems.
Thus, when the two sides do get back to peacemaking, or if the United States begins to take the "roadmap" seriously after the war in Iraq, then the current legacy of violence and the breakdown in communications between the two sides will probably warrant the introduction of international forces to an extent even greater than that anticipated at Camp David in 2000 and Taba in 2001. Already, a variety of internal and external actors are floating a wide spectrum of proposals, from a CIA-led monitoring team for phase I of the roadmap to a United Nations or Quartet nationbuilding trusteeship for the entire West Bank and Gaza.
From the Israeli standpoint, some 55 years of problematic interaction with UN and other international forces have taught us a number of lessons that we would do well to apply when it comes to discussing the upcoming international role.
First, an international element should be inserted only when both belligerents concur with its mandate. The mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights was agreed in 1974 between Israel and Syria, whereas the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was agreed to by Lebanon alone; Israel was not consulted. This is one key reason why UNDOF has been so much more successful than UNIFIL.
Secondly, and ideally, the international element should be little more than "icing on the cake", i.e., it should complement and reinforce the will and desire of the two local parties to live at peace and honor their agreements. This means that if at some point the international element is removed, the peace does not necessarily collapse. The Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in Sinai is a successful example of this principle at work. In contrast, when its predecessor, the United Nations Emergency Force, was removed by then UN Secretary General U Thant in May 1967 without consulting Israel, this helped precipitate the Six-Day War.
Thirdly, the deployment of international forces in the Israel-Arab context has had a greater chance of success when they genuinely separated Israelis and Arabs. Here again, the MFO and UNDOF have worked relatively well, whereas UNIFIL, which until 2000 found itself in the thick of Israeli-Hizballah clashes in southern Lebanon, generally failed. Moreover, Israel's unhappy experience with UNIFIL caused serious tensions in Israel's relationship with otherwise friendly countries like Holland and Norway that contributed troops to the force.
Fourth, judging at least by the lone instance of a non-UN force, the MFO, Israel has a better chance of maintaining a positive relationship with an American-led, non-UN force than with a UN force, whose leadership and management inevitably reflect the huge anti-Israel bias incorporated into most UN institutions.
If we apply these lessons to the prospects for an international role in an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the following rules of thumb emerge:
- The international role and the force's detailed mandate should be agreed between the two sides. Given the current lack of trust and poor communications between them, this is impossible today. Some would argue that this state of affairs reinforces the need for third party intervention. One increasingly mentioned option in this regard is an international nationbuilding force similar to those that have been deployed in recent years in Bosnia and East Timor. From Israel's standpoint this is not a good idea, insofar as the force might frequently take the side of the Palestinian "underdog" in bilateral disputes, and would seek to bar Israel from initiating armed action against Palestinian terrorists on the Palestinian territory it patrols. The Israeli-Palestinian reality has in any case not deteriorated to a state of anarchy similar to Bosnia and East Timor prior to intervention--but it could.
- The force should be American or American-led, rather than under a UN mandate. This appears to be eminently "doable" today.
- The force should be stationed in Palestine (not in Israel), and should monitor peace arrangements that comprise a separation both of forces (however small the "buffer" zones) and ideally of populations between Israel and Palestine. This implies that the international force would be deployed at a relatively advanced stage of the peace process, when trust has been reestablished and the two sides agree on the outlines of their future coexistence. Alternatively it could be deployed after a unilateral withdrawal by Israel, for example from the Gaza Strip. In contrast, the introduction of a genuine international force under current circumstances, where settlers and Palestinians occupy the same geographical space and the Israel Defense Forces patrols most of the territories, would probably be disastrous.
None of this precludes the deployment of small and temporary American or other monitoring teams to oversee security measures mandated, for example, by phase I of the roadmap. Israel has been broadly satisfied with the performance of such an EU unit over the past two years.
But Israel has very understandable historic reasons for treating any more expansive proposals for the introduction of international forces with great caution. They don't always succeed in improving security. And in certain circumstances they can do more harm than good.
Yossi Alpher is a former Senior Adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former Director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has always been highly internationalized. That began in the beginning of the last century when the foreign powers of Britain and France (with the involvement of Italy and Russia) agreed to divisions of control over different parts of the Middle East, including Palestine, that were codified in the Sykes-Picot agreement. After that, the British decided to support the establishment of a Jewish state through the infamous Balfour Declaration.
The following half of the century, which included plenty of international engagement and a great number of United Nations resolutions, did not actually have a lot of affect on what was happening on the ground. The era of the peace process, in particular the last decade of the 1900s, was heavily infused with the precepts of international legality and the need for international mediation, which Israel always sought to avoid.
There are two reasons for Israel’s dodging. First, Israel is unquestionably the more powerful party in the conflict, which means that as long as it can avoid international involvement, it has the opportunity to wield its comparative advantage to alter matters to its own liking. Second, international legality is for the most part dead set against Israel’s continuing attempts to expand its control on the land.
With the failure of the peace process at the turn of the century, many politicians and analysts began to conceive of alternative approaches, which included more active involvement of the international community. The creation and influence of the Quartet (a working group of Russia, the United Nations, the United States and the European Union) was one result. The Quartet’s deliberations have since produced the "roadmap" document, which requires that the international community have a monitoring role over the two parties--the first time in recent history that the international community has agreed to practical engagement.
Unofficially, there have been several other proposals. These suggest giving international bodies like the United Nations a more hands-on role, perhaps even putting the occupied Palestinian territories under mandatory control. At face value, these ideas reflect the failure of the bilateral nature of the Oslo accords between Israelis and Palestinians. Growing interest in third-party participation, monitoring or even running things on the ground is a departure from the conventional wisdom, especially within Israel and among Israeli-supporting states, powers and individuals, which consider bilateral Palestinian relations and negotiations the only way to go. Palestinians, for their part, have always encouraged this type of involvement for the simple reason that anything that moves, replaces or loosens the Israeli occupation’s hooks on the Palestinian territories is considered a step forward, not only because this implies movement towards ending the occupation, it also implies an improvement in the grueling daily life of Palestinians. Nothing can be worse than occupation.
All lessons of recent history lead us to believe that just leaving Palestinians and Israelis on their own aggravates the situation. To do so allows Israel to wield its military superiority as a means of suppressing the other side, at the same time increasing Palestinian feelings of desperation and the public tendency towards resistance, extremism and inflexibility. That is why the most convincing approach for our time is to allow third-party involvement as extensive as possible, with international law as its guide, and assurances that guarantee each party’s legitimate rights.
Ghassan Khatib is minister of labor in the Palestinian Authority cabinet. He has served for many years as a political analyst and media contact.
AN ISRAELI VIEW
No progress without intervention
an interview with Yossi Sarid
bitterlemons: What is your trusteeship plan for the conflict?
Sarid: The Meretz platform uses the term "international trusteeship." The concept is not that far from the one proposed in the roadmap, i.e., supervision, control, judging performance and involvement of the Quartet, but at a different scope.
The plan has two dimensions, civil and security. We believe the civil dimension is more important. Everything has been destroyed in the territories, 60 percent are in need of food aid, the infrastructure is gone, and we need massive rehabilitation if there is to be any chance for improving the security situation. Israel cannot and will not do the rehabilitation. The Palestinians may want to, but they cannot. Therefore the international community must be present in order to carry out the reconstruction.
bitterlemons: What are the dimensions of the force you anticipate?
Sarid: We're talking about a force several thousand civilians and soldiers strong, with the emphasis on the civilians. We've been asked if we believe that someone will endanger their people, say, in Ramallah. Well, if they send forces to Baghdad, Ramallah is certainly less dangerous.
bitterlemons: Will the force be based on prior agreement?
Sarid: I don't believe in a process of agreeing, because there is a problem of violations and it's impossible to judge who's at fault. So we do not have to do this based on agreements whose advantages are doubtful.
bitterlemons: From an Israeli standpoint, aren't you concerned about complications like those Israel feels it had with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)? There will be terrorist attacks, the Israel Defense Forces will respond, the international force will blame Israel, there will be clashes between Israel and the force, etc...
Sarid: I don't have a definitive answer. The assumption is that over time there will be fewer attacks, Israel behind the fence will be better protected, the Palestinian Authority will be more motivated, and there will be more supervision. In any case Israel will have to continue responding in a pinpoint manner according to need. Apropos, that danger is an argument for the necessity of prior agreement between us and the international military trusteeship.
bitterlemons: Will the trusteeship be territorial or virtual? With or without Israeli withdrawal? Former US Ambassador Martin Indyk, for example, has proposed integrating deployment of the trusteeship force with Israeli unilateral withdrawal.
Sarid: De facto, the trusteeship will replace the PA [Palestinian Authority], with its diminished capacity, and the occupation. Officially, the trusteeship will work with the PA. As a consequence, Israel will certainly return in the first stage to the September 28, 2000 lines, and in the second stage to the '67 lines. Indyk's proposal is more or less the same.
bitterlemons: Let's turn to other types of international forces. How do you see the idea embodied in the roadmap, for a supervisory or control force?
Sarid: That is an open plan, which explains its advantages and its drawbacks. I support giving the force the authority to judge the degree to which the two sides fulfill their obligations. I'm for a four-sided force--not only American, but with American leadership. In general, these [members of the Quartet] are responsible actors who are not automatically anti-Israeli. I'm not paranoid about this.
bitterlemons: And a separation force as part of a final status agreement?
Sarid: This is an important contribution. The force would patrol the borders between us, and would put itself at the disposal of the bilateral supervisory and control mechanisms.
bitterlemons: Finally, does the difficult experience of the past two years, preceded by the collapse of the peace process, point to a greater or a reduced necessity for international involvement?
Sarid: Greater. Without international intervention and pressure I don't believe there will be progress.
Member of Knesset Yossi Sarid is the outgoing chairman of the Meretz Party.
There is no question that Palestinians and Israel desperately need a meaningful third party intervention strong enough to make visible changes on the ground. The two-state solution is continuously being threatened by Israel's incessant settlement construction and so-called "security fence" designed to imprison the entire Palestinian population. At the same time, violence aimed at Israelis undoubtedly continues to threaten Palestinian realization of freedom and independence. While putting an end to violence against Israeli civilians and securing Palestinian freedom and independence are two different goals, they are so interconnected that the vehicle needed to achieve them is one. Over the last two years, many have called for an "observer mission" or "protection force," while others have suggested establishing a "protectorate" or "trusteeship", at times using the terms interchangeably without fully understanding their implications.
Observers can only do one thing: observe. They do not have the capability to enforce political agreements. Their only task is to report on violations. The Temporary International Presence in Hebron is the perfect example, but clearly not the perfect model. Following the massacre of 29 Palestinians in Hebron, TIPH placed international observers in specified locations in Hebron to monitor events and report back to their member states on incidents that violate the provisions of Palestinian-Israelis agreements. Confidential reports are sent to contributing states--far from the scene--and ultimately enter a black hole, producing nothing. Given the intensity of this conflict and the corresponding lack of trust, monitors will only preserve the status quo rather than change it.
On the other hand, deployment of armed forces as part of "trusteeship" or "protectorate", as some have proposed, is a non-starter. These models assume the total collapse of all Palestinian institutions, including the Palestine Liberation Organization. While the mandate may attempt to establish a transitional government and seek to disarm Palestinian armed activists, intervention will not be supported by the masses and many may even resist it. As such, detractors envision Somalia all over again, whereby the perceptions and attitudes of those deployed do not necessarily reflect the concerns of the local population. The consequences were disastrous then and, if applied here, will be equally disastrous.
If the mandate for intervention is not precise or fails to address the root causes and concerns of both sides, any type of deployment--military or otherwise--will be rendered useless and counterproductive. As such, intervention in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires three important elements: a political initiative backed and supported by continuous international political capital, political will at the local level and a robust monitoring mechanism capable of verifying implementation and resolving disputes in an expeditious manner. At present, it is clear that the first element has been secured, or at least for the time being. With the roadmap's imminent publication, it is hoped that the presence of a strong monitoring mechanism to ensure effective implementation will encourage and foster political will at the local level.
We have learned that the parties' most persistent quarrels have centered on the failure to abide by past agreements. Indeed, the absence of an international monitoring and implementation mechanism during the Oslo period clearly resulted in disagreements. Such disputes could have been circumvented if an effective implementation and monitoring mechanism had been in place. It has become abundantly clear that both parties will need the engagement of the international community in order to effectively address their concerns. Without a strong enforcement mechanism, the roadmap will soon be rendered irrelevant and the power imbalance that exists will be perpetuated. It is clear that international intervention must ultimately have two main goals: the first is to ensure that Israel has the security it requires and, second, to establish a viable, prosperous Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, including East Jerusalem, living in peace side by side with Israel.
Palestinians and Israelis alike are particularly worried that if this process stalls or if a minor dispute turns into a major dispute it will result in a terminal blow to the roadmap itself, or any future attempt at resolving the conflict. Palestinians have now gone far in implementing nearly all of the provisions of "phase 1" of the roadmap, even before the document's final issuance. The international community must exert maximum political capital to compel and encourage Israel to begin implementing its obligations, as well.
The monitoring mechanism that is put in place must be detailed and clear in order to facilitate implementation. Vagueness will only delay it, and if that delay becomes extensive, the roadmap will become irrelevant. Even though the Government of Israel may not currently have the political will to freeze settlement construction, a monitoring mechanism should ensure that the roadmap moves forward. In the end, the rewards of a robust monitoring and enforcement mechanism will hopefully break the cycle of failure and ensure that peace between the Palestinians and Israel is achieved and maintained.
Yaser M. Dajani is Policy Advisor on Security at the Negotiations Support Unit, Negotiations Affairs Department, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the PLO.
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