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Foreign intervention in Palestine will not happen

03/25/2004

Ralph Seliger, Executive Editor of Israel Horizons, has proposed that the United States should have sent troops to the West Bank and Gaza strip to keep the peace and rebuild Palestine, instead of invading Iraq, as part of the war on terror. I will not discuss the questionable idea that the war on terror could have been fought by the USA in Israel, but the idea of sending foreign troops to the West Bank and Gaza deserves comment.

The notion that an international force should enter the West Bank and Gaza and keep the peace was first advanced by none other than Mr. Yasser Arafat, and was furthered by Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun, among others. I am sure that Ralph Seliger and Michael Lerner both mean well, but we need to understand that their proposals are totally impractical and unlikely to be adopted. I will outline only a few of the reasons below.

The Settlements- In the absence of a final status agreement, any foreign force sent to the West Bank and Gaza would need to defend Israelis against terrorist attacks, not only in Israel within the borders of the green line border, but also in the areas settled by Israelis after June 1967. This includes not only the Gaza strip, and West Bank settlements such as Efrat and Ariel, but also Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Ramat Eshkol and the Jewish quarter of the old city of Jerusalem, as well as the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus. Israel is not going to evacuate all these settlements, but, on the other hand, the United States - or any international body such as the UN or NATO, could not possibly defend the settlements. Neither the US nor the UN recognize any Israeli territorial claims outside of the green line. When we factor in the probable motivation of US (or French or Fijian) troops to defend settlers, we can understand that even without considerations of international law and commitments, the idea is impractical. Even Israeli soldiers are not pftem enthusiastic about this job. A friend of mine who was an enthusiastic Likud supporter spent two days guarding Geula Cohen and a groups of settler advocates in Hebron some years ago, and came back saying he was going to vote for the dovish Meretz party in the next election.

It is not practical either, to consider that the USA or any other country would deploy troops only in "Arab" areas of the West Bank and Gaza strip, since this would constitute de facto recognition of the Israeli occupation.

"Jewish War" - The Iraq war was decried as the result of a "Zionist" (or "neocon" --where "neocon" means people named Wolfowitz, Feith and Perle) plot by a large section of US and European public opinion. We can imagine what would happen if US or European soldiers were sent to keep the peace in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and if even one soldier lost his life.

Arab World - It is unimaginable that the USA or any other foreign country would engage in fighting Palestinians and thereby incur the wrath of the entire Muslim world.

Clashes with Settlers- Suppose that the US or 'International forces,' of which the US would be a major part, had a run-in with a settler extremist. Does anyone really think that US marines are going to arrest Israeli citizens or shoot at them? George Bush is not a genius, but he is certainly smart enough to stay away from that possibility. Even Gerald Ford would not have gotten himself into a mess like that.

Competence - It is unlikely, with all due respect, that Israel will trust her defense to the US army. Though Israel has certainly not succeeded in vanquishing the Palestinians, the record of the USA in pacifying Iraq as compared to the Israeli record in fighting the Palestinains is instructive. A few examples will suffice. Consider first the repeated and unsuccessful attempts to kill Saddam Hussein at the start of the Iraq war. In the most famous disaster, the US dropped four 2,000 pound cluster bombs on a restaurant in al Mansour, killing over a dozen civlians, but not Saddam. Saddam himself, despite the huge reward offered for his capture, remained holed up (literally) very close to Tikrit, where one would expect to find him, for many months. He called his wife on the telephone, but the mighty NSA listening posts were unable to find him. Compare this to the fate of the late 'spiriual leader' of the Hamas, whose head was sliced in two by an Israeli missile, after a single previous attempt that had failed only because Israel had refrained from using more bombs. Palestinian terrorist leaders don't use cell phones unless they really have to, and with good reason. The US and its allies spent billions of dollars and many lives on conquering Afghanistan, but Osama escaped. Pakistani and US forces organized a massive manhunt in the mountains of Afghanistan, but apparently Osama Bin Laden and his sidekick Ayman Zwahiri escaped in a tunnel. All that hi-tech and nobody thought of a little ole escape tunnel. Gee whiz!

Osama is free, Zawahiri is free. How many of the 9-11 conspirators who are still alive have been caught? This is the mighty United States. In 1972, the Black September movement murdered the Israeli Olympic team in Munich. Right or wrong, Israel decided that these terrorists would pay with their lives. The result is known to all and well documented here. Clearly, to fight terror effectively, the US needs to develop a different order of competence in intelligence gathering and in understanding of the Middle East, and it is doubtful that any other European country could do much better at this time.

Iraq factor - A Palestinian state, or state in the making would be a natural target for all extremist groups who oppose the peace process, Israel and the USA. The former and unlamented Iraqi regime had a material and non-negligible role in instigating terror in the Palestinian areas by financing suicide bombings, paying families of suicide bombers and organizing "resistance." It is certain that if the US or US-UN were to occupy Palestine, Saddam Hussein would have welcomed the opportunity to hit at the United States through the Palestinians. Palestine could not come first, as Ralph Seliger proposed, because there was no way Saddam would've allowed any solution at all to succeed.

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 3 comments

I understand the pitfalls and shortcomings of my suggestion. There is no approach to Israel/ Palestine-- including benign negelect as practiced by the G.W. Bush adminstration-- that is not beset with problems.

Ami left out that US forces (in a UN-mandated US or NATO trusteeship over the
territories) was Yossi Sarid's idea. It is his emphasis on US forces that distinguishes Sarid's concept, and my own, from Arafat and Michael Lerner's.

Sarid's and my own thinking is strategically correct and tactically difficult. What brought me back to it is that the US has already taken on a larger
challenge in Iraq. There the US has operated with tactical brilliance (despite the initial screw-ups in locating Saddam), but in the service of a flawed
strategy.

Even with Israel's proven tactical ability, as Ami has cited, he's not suggesting that we just leave things to Sharon-- an acknowledged tactical genius and a strategic buffoon-- or is he?

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