Global Policy Forum

A Measure of International Seriousness


By Ghassan Khatib *
September 18, 2006

The decision to deploy international forces under the auspices of the UN to ensure the practical implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which formed the basis for ending the war in Lebanon, started a debate about the possibility of doing the same in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That debate took new momentum when Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Massimo d'Alema supported the idea in public. His stance encouraged Palestinians to think and speak more about the possibility.

One reason for the failure of international efforts to find a peaceful solution to this conflict is that there have been no serious attempts by the international community to impose or at least properly monitor the implementation of the many plans, initiatives and resolutions that received international approval. The roadmap is only the latest in a string of examples of plans that reflect international consensus and are accepted by the two parties but are not implemented.

One of the many reasons that these plans are not implemented is that each party accuses the other of not fulfilling its obligations under whichever plan may be in question.

With regards to the roadmap, one of the Israeli accusations leveled at the Palestinian side is that the Palestinian Authority is not able to maintain security and prevent attacks on Israel from Gaza or the West Bank.

Indeed, a seriously weakened PA could well be in need of international forces to help implement agreements with Israel, help monitor violations and contribute to enforcing the implementation of international initiatives. And if Israel, which has declared its willingness to achieve a two-state solution and end the occupation of most of the occupied Palestinian territory, is serious in accepting the roadmap but not confident of Palestinian intentions, then a deployment of international forces--with the mandate to contribute to the implementation and the monitoring of the implementation of a plan like the roadmap or any similar plan--should be welcomed.

The experience of the European security presence in Rafah can be seen as an encouraging example. That presence came about as the result of an agreement reached between the sides and is designed role to monitor its implementation. It also plays a role in helping the Palestinian side to gain the necessary capacity to fulfill its obligations and thus to create confidence between the sides.

Similar objectives can be agreed on a larger scale and on the basis of an initiative that has to do with ending the hostilities and going back to the pre-September 2000 situation when the PA was supposed to exercise control over the Palestinian territory under its jursidiction.

And if that is too big step to take, then it might be possible to expand the experience of Rafah gradually, by, for example, deploying an international presence at different crossings such Karni, Tarqumiya and others. That wouldn't be a totally radical idea, because the Crossings Agreement, reached after the redeployment of Israeli troops from Gaza last year, was meant to be a model for the port, the airport and other crossings in Gaza. The danger here, and something that would be completely unacceptable to the Palestinian side, is to allow a role for an international presence in Gaza but not the West Bank. Such an arrangement would consolidate and confirm the fears among many Palestinians, including officials, that Israel is unilaterally creating a new reality, i.e., the legal separation of the West Bank from Gaza. This would undermine the strategic objective of the Palestinian people, which is the establishment of one Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank including East Jerusalem.

The idea of repeating the Lebanon experience, which so far appears successful, would require looking at the Palestinian territories as one, especially since the objectives that are to be achieved by any international forces can be found equally in both the West Bank and Gaza. In fact, there are more reasons to deploy such forces in the West Bank than in Gaza, simply due to its larger size.

One can even go further and say that an international presence in the West Bank in addition to Gaza could spare Israel the need for its separation wall, which is not only costing Israel a heavy price in terms of credibility and international public standing and legality, but in an age of rockets is not the worth the cement it's being built with.

About the Author: Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is the former Palestinian Authority minister of planning, and has been a political analyst and media contact for many years.

More Information on the Security Council
More Information on UN Involvement in Israel and Palestine
More Information on Israel, Palestine, and the Occupied Territories
More Information on the "Peace Process"
More Information on the Road Map


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