Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Israel's bitter lessons

Dore Gold

It has become almost axiomatic for Western leaders who are aware of Israel's acute military vulnerability to suggest that international forces be deployed to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It has even been suggested that the IDF withdraw from strategically vital parts of the West Bank, like the Jordan Valley, and instead let international forces take their place. This was in fact proposed in the past by General Jim Jones, President Barack Obama's first national security adviser. Some Israelis have also proposed this idea; former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told The New York Times earlier this year that he wanted to deploy international forces in the West Bank, though he suggested they be led by the U.S. The last major experiment with international forces was actually attempted under the Olmert government at the end of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701. It is worthwhile to look back five years to see how that international force actually functioned before more proposals of this kind are put on the table in the future by the international community.

At the time, Israeli diplomacy was focused on instituting security arrangements that were intended to prevent the return of the military conditions along Israel's northern border that had contributed to the outbreak of hostilities to begin with. Thus Resolution 1701 called for the creation of a larger UNIFIL force with a much more more robust mandate than before. It was not supposed to be just another U.N. force with underpaid third world soldiers, but rather European forces from France Spain, and Italy, like those who make up NATO, were deployed instead.

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