Edition 5 Volume 2 - January 29, 2024

An international solution for the conflict?

On behalf of a failed state - an interview with  Martin Indyk

This is the only way that Palestinians can be rid of the kleptocracy of Yasser Arafat.

Go back to the UN, salvage our international system - by  Shawqi Issa

The Israeli government thinks that it can impose its own solution.

A Dayton accord for the Middle East - by  Alvaro de Vasconcelos

People in the Middle East have every right to expect the international community to act as it did in Bosnia.

First deal with the anarchy - by  Ehud Yaari

Out of an armistice-type agreement--but not instead of it--there could emerge international involvement.

On behalf of a failed state
an interview with Martin Indyk

BI: Could you describe your specific vision on how international intervention might work?

Indyk: First, it is much preferable for the two parties, Israel and the Palestinians, to resolve their differences between themselves and to have the international community simply support them in the process of implementation. The problem is that with the breakdown of the peace process and the horrible violence and terrorism associated with that, there is both a lack of trust between the two sides, and--more important to any effort to try to reach an agreement--there is also a collapse of the Palestinian Authority as a partner in the process.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian side now lacks a leadership with the credibility and the capability to negotiate an agreement and fulfill its commitments. Therefore, I believe that the United States has to lead the effort to build a capable, responsible, and credible Palestinian partner, which Israel would then need to respond to.

BI: What would that entail precisely?

Indyk: Essentially, we need to understand that the Palestinian Authority is a failed state-in-the-making, and just as in other places around the world where the international community has intervened to deal with the consequences of a failed state, that is what is necessary here. In other words, we need to look at the models of East Timor, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, where the international community has intervened to establish an international trusteeship or protectorate that takes responsibility for running affairs in the specified territory, and also takes responsibility for establishing security, law and order. With Security Council approval, the trustees of Palestine would oversee a process of building or rebuilding the institutions of government, whether they be political institutions or economic institutions or security and judicial institutions, which then provide a framework for the people in the territories to take responsibility for their own affairs.

BI: So you are talking about a major troop effort?

Indyk: The troops are not the most important element. The most important element is this international protectorate, in which the international community assumes responsibility for all matters within the territory in question. The trustees, with UN Security Council approval, would take control of Palestinian affairs out of the hands of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority and, for a period of time, say three years, oversee the establishment of democratic political institutions, transparent economic institutions, an independent judiciary, and a security service capable of enforcing law and order.

Only special forces would be needed. The intention is not to put a NATO-like peacekeeping force as a buffer between Israel and the Palestinians. I am suggesting an international effort to rebuild the capabilities of the Palestinian security services. What that requires is training, intelligence, operational advice and, if necessary, support from forces on the ground to back up the Palestinian security services as they fulfill their commitments to restore law and order, disarm militias, and dismantle the infrastructure of the terrorist organizations.

BI: What kind of responses have you received from Palestinians and Israelis on this idea?

Indyk: Palestinians who understand what a disaster Yasser Arafat's rule has been for the Palestinian cause have tried to promote these kinds of reforms by themselves. But the last few years show that they are unable on their own to affect these changes. And so while they at first resented the idea that the international community would come in and assume this protectorate role, they now are very keen to see the trusteeship established. They understand that they can't do it on their own and this is the only way that they can be rid of the kleptocracy that Yasser Arafat has established in the Palestinian areas.

On the other side, the Israelis are very reluctant to see the international community playing this role for fear that it will limit Israel's ability to take care of its own security concerns. But Israelis are increasingly supporting the idea that the prime minister has put forward: unilateral withdrawal from Palestinian areas. If they do this, they need to focus on the vacuum they will leave behind when they evacuate the Palestinian territories. Do they want the only capable party on the Palestinian side to fill that vacuum? That is an invitation to Hamas to take over. Or, in the context of conducting unilateral withdrawal, would they prefer to hand over responsibility to an international body?

BI: How do you see current US policy meshing with this proposal?

Indyk: The war in Iraq set an important precedent for this idea. On the one hand, the establishment of what is, in effect, an American trusteeship in Iraq showed that the United States is prepared to take on this kind of ambitious task.

However, the experience so far in Iraq mitigates against the United States taking up this kind of responsibility in Palestine anytime soon. The loss of American life, the uncertainty of the outcome, the resistance of Iraqis--all this raises serious questions in the United States about the wisdom of undertaking a similar effort in the Palestinian areas.

However, President Bush has been very strong and very clear in his commitment to the establishment of a democratic state of Palestine living alongside a secure Israel. There is a very large gap between his rhetoric and any action on the part of his administration, and in the future, if we imagine a positive outcome in Iraq, I think that the predicate will have been laid for the United States to take a leading role of this kind in Palestine as well.

BI: You have seen the maps; you have seen the trajectory of the walls and fences that Israel is constructing. Palestinians will want to know why they should accept a trusteeship on this much smaller piece of land that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is proposing.

Indyk: I think that the Palestinians would want to know where this trusteeship is to be established. They would find it much easier to accept if it were on all of the territory occupied by Israel in 1967. But I don’t think that is a realistic prospect.

However, the Palestinian Authority, the government of Israel and the international community have accepted the roadmap. It has been endorsed by a UN Security Council resolution. And the roadmap provides for a Palestinian state with provisional borders in phase two. But we can't get to phase two because of the lack of a capable and responsible partner on the Palestinian side. The trusteeship is a way of “leap-frogging” into the second phase of the roadmap, whereby the trusteeship would be established on the territory envisaged for the Palestinian state with provisional borders, which would be all of Gaza and some 50 or 60 percent of the West Bank, depending on what Israel is prepared to evacuate. The trustees would take power away from Arafat and the Palestinian Authority and oversee the building of a capable and accountable set of Palestinian institutions. Palestinians could then assume responsibility for their own affairs in this state with provisional borders and simultaneously conduct negotiations with Israel to define the final borders of their state and resolve other final status issues.

The political context is very important in such an arrangement. It needs to be put into a framework of what the Palestinians refer to as "international legitimacy", i.e. the UN resolutions that comprise the basis for negotiating a two-state solution. It might also be necessary to combine these with American parameters that describe the endgame of the final status negotiations. In this way, the Palestinians will know that the trusteeship is a way-station to a viable and democratic, independent state and the Israelis will know that their concerns about security and the return of refugees will also be assuaged.-Published 29/1/2004©bitterlemons-international.org

Martin Indyk is director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at The Brookings Institution. During the Clinton administration, he served twice as US ambassador to Israel and as assistant secretary of state for near east affairs.

Go back to the UN, salvage our international system
by Shawqi Issa

The international community, through the League of Nations' establishment of the British Mandate and then later, the United Nations' creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, was the impetus behind the Palestine-Israel conflict. It is only right and natural then that the international community play an integral role in implementing a solution.

Since the creation of Israel and Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, however, Israel and its allies have successfully prevented the international community from implementing United Nations resolutions and international law. It suits Israel for the Palestinians to remain weak and Israel powerful, with support and protection from the United States and some West European countries, and the silence of the rest of the world. Israel prefers that negotiations be solely bilateral, because a solution based on international law would be legally just--in other words falling short of Israeli needs.

But it is clear that international involvement is required. International law has established strong precedents in this area--that is why this world system was established, to gain control over the ravages of war. Imagine if the United Nations had sent peacekeeping troops here, as it has done in so many other conflicts, to monitor the 1993 Oslo accords and the following agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Israel would never have been able to continue building settlements and illegally transferring its own population into occupied territory, nor would it have been able to kill so many civilians when open confrontations broke out. The situation today, including the measure of trust between the two parties, would be infinitely better.

The first step towards peace in the region is for Israel to implement the 4th Geneva Convention in the occupied territories and for the United Nations to deploy peacekeeping forces, thus protecting Palestinian civilians under Israeli occupation and creating the right atmosphere for negotiations. Second, there should be implementation of the only feasible and agreed-upon solution, a two state solution that establishes the State of Palestine on the lands occupied by Israel in 1967, without settlements. But this cannot be achieved without United Nations resolutions and the oversight of the international community.

Otherwise, our future looks grim. Israel has made use of the international community's silence to construct a wall through the occupied West Bank. This wall will implement Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plans to enclose Palestinians in half of the West Bank and annex the rest to Israel, transferring those Palestinians that live between the wall and the 1967 borders back further inside the wall and the occupied territories. The Israeli government thinks that, in this way, it can impose its own solution.

In a bid to counteract Israel's immense power, Palestinians lobbied hard in the United Nations General Assembly to have the world body request a legal opinion on the wall from the International Court of Justice at The Hague. The resolution passed, but voting patterns demonstrated how hands-off the international community has become when it comes to Israeli violations of international law. The 27 votes of opposition and the 74 abstentions combined totaled more than the 90 votes in favor of requesting an opinion from the ICJ. The countries that voted with Palestinians were mainly third world countries (still smarting from their own colonizers), while Israel, the Americans and their friends voted against. (European countries decided to abstain.) The reason for this hesitancy is twofold: any matter concerning Israel is handled with kid gloves, as states, particularly European states, fear being accused of anti-Semitism. Second, some countries, including the United States, do not want to see an international precedent made in this case, as they are still "managing" their own colonial problems and do not want the ICJ to interfere.

Still, Palestinians had won a first battle. The international court's involvement was a legal precedent in itself. It will be unable to include political considerations in its ruling, which will be based solely on international law. Any decision based on international law must be against Israeli actions in the occupied territories because Israel has repeatedly and baldly violated the 4th Geneva Convention and other international law statutes. Israel's contention that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are not truly occupied because there was no Palestinian state on the land prior to 1967 has never been supported by the United Nations. Therefore, legally, Israel has no right to build the wall on occupied territory.

The worry is that political games will divert the court from its mission. The Americans, Israelis, and Europeans are working avidly to avoid the ICJ ruling or to delay it for several years. This outcome would demonstrate for all the weakness of the United Nations, the failure of international justice, and the unchecked strength of the United States and Israel. In other words, the Americans and their friends will be anointed as the world's policemen. In a worst case scenario, this negative outcome could very well spell the end of the sovereignty of states encoded in the United Nations system.

The proper way to resolve the Palestine-Israel conflict is to remove Israeli settlements, including the wall, on all of the territory occupied in 1967, and to create a Palestinian state next to Israel. This solution cannot be implemented in a bilateral climate, with the Americans brokering solutions. All states must get involved, and everything must be done through the United Nations. Our problem is a world problem and attempts to force through a one-sided solution will only prolong the agonizing quest for a resolution.-Published 29/1/2004©bitterlemons-international.org

Shawqi Issa is a specialist in international law and legal consultant on the wall for the Palestinian Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PENGON) based in Palestine.

A Dayton accord for the Middle East
by Alvaro de Vasconcelos

What is there in common between the crises in Bosnia and Kosovo and the strange war now raging in Palestine? An awareness of the fact that certain conflicts cannot be stopped and innocent lives adequately protected without the intervention of the international community, including through a military presence if necessary to guarantee a peaceful outcome.

The Dayton agreement was imposed on the parties in the conflict in Bosnia after all prior efforts had failed. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict bears little resemblance to the Balkan wars. But the succession of failed peace initiatives there seems to suggest that a lasting peace, and an end to injustice and violence, will not come about without a firm commitment of the international community to impose a similar kind of interim solution.

Bosnia is a good example. In 1995, after years of inaction, the Clinton administration and a few European leaders finally decided to put an end to ethnic cleansing and the barbaric manifestations of extreme nationalism in the former Yugoslavia. States are often impotent to resist aggression or to solve other major security problems, just like people are often unable to escape persecution and slaughter. Such was the case with the government in Bosnia and later with the Kosovars. There was only one solution for both cases: the international community had to assume full responsibility and get involved decisively in the resolution of the crisis.

Bosnia, Kosovo or East Timor are the exceptional cases that confirm the general rule of passivity and impotence of the international community in the face of serious conflicts, even if they commit gross human rights abuses and pose a threat to international security.

Take Israel's military intervention in Palestine: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was given leeway to persistently pursue a policy of “suffocation” of the Palestinians in consistent violation of international law in the name of fighting terrorism. This was even more the case after September 11. Clearly, continuing acts of terror against Israeli civilians must be delegitimized and stopped. As Palestinian political activist Hannan Ashrawi noted: what moral values could possibly legitimize terrorist reaction against Israeli attacks? However neither the Israeli government nor the Palestinian Authority has proven capable of solving the problem, whether unilaterally or through negotiation. The limitations of achieving peace through a long process of bilateral negotiation prone to constant sabotage have been apparent since Oslo, and the roadmap did nothing to correct that approach.

The Palestinian Authority would not be able to counter Ariel Sharon's policy without support from the international community; nor is it capable of neutralizing or effectively reining in terrorist groups. For a long time now, the worsening spiral of conflict has called for an "internationalized" solution. Deferring urgent intervention has already resulted in many unnecessary deaths, and the situation is a serious emerging threat to international security.

People in the Middle East have every right to expect the international community to act at least as effectively as it did in Bosnia. There are faint signs of change with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The European Union is more conscious than ever of the devastating effects of the worsening conflict on regional peace. However, it has placed all its hopes on the possibility of persuading the United States to exert pressure on Sharon to accept the necessary existence of a Palestinian state. The US has taken a stand on the issue, but it has been a feeble one, the aim of which seems to have been to quiet the "Arab street" after the military intervention in Iraq. The US does not appear to be ready to get fully involved in the resolution of the problem as it did for the Balkans in the 1990s, or to support a determined international intervention that includes the use of peacekeeping forces.

Many feel that in these circumstances it is utopian to support international intervention. However, had no one supported intervention in Bosnia it would never have taken place. The Geneva accord makes it possible to relaunch the debate about international intervention because it shows that an agreement is possible and that its content is known. But it is also clear that Geneva will become yet another failed endeavor and destroy hopes for a peaceful solution to the conflict if it is not backed by decisive international involvement.

Israel should be made to accept an international presence on the ground in order to protect Palestinians from military incursions and encroachment, and Israelis from acts of terror. Not only would this be far more effective than the wall that Israel is building, but it could also help to ensure the two-state solution essential for peace, which the “security fence” in effect denies. The window of opportunity created by Geneva should be taken advantage of: an international conference should urgently be called that is inspired not by the model of the post-Gulf War Madrid conference, but by the Dayton model, in the sense of not only offering the parties a "final status" solution which meets with broad public support and can still be improved, but of imposing on them active international involvement, including a military presence that would guarantee that the stipulated solution to the conflict can in effect be implemented.-Published 29/1/2004©bitterlemons-international.org

Alvaro de Vasconcelos is director of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in Lisbon, Portugal.

First deal with the anarchy
by Ehud Yaari

The idea of an international trusteeship, like the Geneva accord or the various plans for an interim settlement, all suffer from one fundamental drawback: they are not rooted in reality. They all assume that with some sort of external support--a kind of friendly babysitting--the Palestinian Authority will be able to get back on its feet and not only regain control, but even confront the opponents of the proposed agreement or arrangement.

This point of departure is flawed, because it does not take into account the real situation. To place administrators, advisors and peacekeeping troops in a shattered, impoverished and hostile environment is one thing. To send them into an actively anarchic situation is something else. Trusteeship over a population that seeks help cannot be compared to trusteeship over a population that is being torn to bits by a broad range of warlords whose sole interest is local politics rather than national issues.

Many observers make the mistake of viewing the anarchy that is spreading throughout the Palestinian territories as merely a sad by-product of the intifada. This is not the reality. Anarchy is the strategy that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat chose from the outset as a mechanism for releasing various levels of terrorism against Israel, yet without placing the Palestinian Authority itself in direct confrontation with Israel and without appearing publicly as the person orchestrating the entire struggle.

From the very first stages of the intifada, Arafat adopted an approach that few could decipher: a willing suspension of control. He consciously and knowingly conceded a significant degree of regime power in favor of a coalition of irregulars: the "union of Islamic and national forces," a partnership between the Fatah Tanzim, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc. He found it convenient, for understandable reasons, that these irregulars, led by commanders not generally associated with the Palestinian Authority, be seen as the vanguard of the struggle. The PA's standard security forces were directed by Arafat to stand aside: not to open fire on the Jews, but also not to fire at those who do shoot at Jews.

This system, in which the leader silences and weakens the pyramid of power upon which he himself stands, continues to "function" to this day. Indeed, the chaos is striking deeper and deeper roots in view of the Israeli military response. We are witness to a rapid process of national impoverishment, mass unemployment and societal fragmentation. In many ways the PA has become a pay station whose primary task is to take out loans in order to pay salaries to tens of thousands of officials, security personnel, teachers, etc., many of whom have long since ceased showing up at work. The Palestinian security apparatuses are not only squabbling among themselves; many are in such a state of collapse that they no longer function.

Entire regions--Rafah and Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, Jenin and its environs in the northern West Bank--have actually turned into lawless zones where the representatives of the PA, governors, mayors, security commanders, bow to the will of local strongmen. In cities like Nablus and Bethlehem the police are powerless in the face of local gangs. Fatah, the backbone of the Palestine Liberation Organization, is in deep crisis; its internal schisms defy the term cohesive, and it must be seen as a shaky structure that could very soon fall apart.

There is no sign whatsoever that Arafat intends to take steps to end this anarchy. On the contrary, he views it as a threat against Israel that Palestinian society is liable to collapse into its waiting arms. Instead of "runaway statehood" to be achieved without an agreement to end the conflict, Arafat is threatening "running away from statehood"--a rapid regression executed while pretending to maintain the status quo.

The same goes for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The Israeli plan to "stay the course"--there may be no practical alternative for the moment--means that the Palestinian implosion is amplified by heavy external pressure, thereby merely accelerating the pace of fragmentation and collapse. No wonder there are Palestinian intellectuals who demand that Arafat officially dismantle the Palestinian Authority and abandon the plan for a Palestinian state alongside Israel. This is a logical by-product of the chaos strategy.

Under these circumstances, there is no immediate benefit to be found in grandiose plans like the Geneva accord and trusteeship. What is needed first is a formula for stopping the slide into anarchy. This is a vital precondition, at the highest priority, to any other move. Such a formula can only be generated by adopting the model of the 1949 armistice agreements.

Those armistice pacts included not only a ceasefire, but also a territorial dimension of land swaps and border delineation, a political dimension of de facto acknowledgement of the State of Israel, and an international dimension in the form of the mixed armistice commissions.

At present there is no chance for a mere hudna, or ceasefire, nor for a permanent status agreement. But there is for an armistice-type pact that comprises the removal of settlements, alterations in the path of the fence, and agreement regarding the nature of the Palestinian state "with provisional borders" mentioned in phase two of the roadmap.

Out of such an agreement--but not instead of it--there could emerge international involvement.-Published 29/1/2004©bitterlemons-international.org

Ehud Yaari is Middle East commentator of Israel TV channel 2.

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