UN must intervene in territories

Only an Arab-manned UN force could restore order in the PA
Yossi Ben-Ari

In light of the recent events in Gaza and the ongoing economic crisis there, it would be a miracle if the massive tensions currently swirling amongst the Palestinians did not lead to all-out civil war. The Palestinian "national dialogue" scheduled for this weekend appears to be little more than an outdated aspirin for a patient desperately in need of a surgeon's knife. And if the summit does fail, the situation could potentially get worse.


The international community must stop watching indifferently from the side, waiting for the Palestinian government to change its policies vis--vis Israel as a condition for re-engaging. Such re-engagement is crucial now, not only in order to head off the coming humanitarian crisis, but also in order to shore up the foundations of the crumbling Palestinian Authority before Lebanonization takes control, and establishes a no man's land for years to come.


Even if the matter strikes a blow to the Palestinians' "family pride," they have little choice but to request the services of an outside "specialist doctor" to treat the patient, given their desperate circumstances.



Needed: International force



The wise thing to do would be for all levels of the PA leadership to issue a joint call to the international community to put together a civilian-security task force, and to deploy that force on the ground for a set amount of time (three years, for instance). This force will be charged with a two-pronged mandate: to restore order, security and the rule of law, and to rebuild PA institutions, in order to give it a chance to build an independent state sometime in the future.


In light of the ongoing failure in Iraq, we would do well this time to refrain from sending in American troops, even in the (unlikely) event the Americans would even agree to such a move. It would be better to base such a force on European troops; they are viewed in a rather more favorable light in the territories, and they will be an ongoing source of funding for Palestinian rule when the time comes to renew it.


But a European force of this nature could be seen as a sort of neo-colonialism; as such, it could inspire tremendous public resentment.


Calling Egypt, Jordan



Therefore, the best available option would be to rely on Western help to assist civilian matters of state building, but to relegate security responsibility for Gaza to Egypt, and for the West Bank to Jordan.


Strategically, as neighbors of the PA, Egypt and Jordan have clear interests in being involved in developments there, especially at a time when the danger of Islamist elements infiltrating those countries from Palestine has increased dramatically.


Cairo's interest in the goings-on in the territories is an ongoing reality; therefore, Israel must lean heavily on President Hosni Mubarak. Sadat's Egypt may have decided a generation ago to "disengage" from ruling over Gaza, but the bilateral links between them, which got stronger following the opening of the Rafah crossing, will apparently continue forever.


And so it is for Jordan: The late King Hussein renounced his country's claims to the West Bank, but both banks of the Jordan are rich with social and economic symbolism. A current expression of this is the return to prominence of the Joradanian dinar and Jordanian banks in the territories, following the wanton decision of Israeli banks to disengage, once and for all, from Palestinian banks (we may wonder if this is really what Israel wants?).



Appropriate choice


The choice of Egypt and Jordan to build an international military-police force for the PA is appropriate for several reasons: All sides share a common language and culture, neighboring security forces have expert knowledge of the reality on the ground and know well both the Palestinian security apparatus and civilian population.


In addition, the geographic connection and the lure of open borders could ease, and reduce the cost of, the process of rotating, increasing or decreasing forces. The Jordanian army's experience participating in international peacekeeping forces could contribute as well.


Given the current reality, this task force should have general and exclusive jurisdiction on the ground. At the same time, the existing Palestinian security establishment should be neutralized. This latter group, together with all government offices, would use this period to regroup, with an eye on resuming their activities once the international mandate is over.


UN auspices


Ideally, this force should come under the jurisdiction of the United Nations, as the most senior international organization, and one with many years of experience conducting similar campaigns. That experience should ease the process of administering such a force, and the move would allow the mission to be labeled a peace keeping delegation, thus opening the door to UN funding.


Despite the fact that task force would be staffed with Egyptian and Jordanian soldiers, the practical administration of the group should be conducted by the Arab League, whose leadership will naturally be accepted and maybe even push the Saudi initiative for a final-status agreement and full normalization in the Middle East.


Israel, for its part, must free itself from prior positions (like the long-standing opposition to foreign forces in Lebanon, for example) to see the benefits of this proposal, especially in light of the alternative.


Whilst Israel does have peace agreements with its neighbors to the south and east, and these countries do help Israel with regard to the Palestinians, it must use their willingness to help, even if its freedom of operations in the territories is diminished by such a move.



Brig. Gen. (res.) Dr. Yossi Ben-Ari was a senior intelligence officer and the co-director of IPCRI Strategic Affairs Unit