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article imageOp-Ed: The prospect of a U.N mandate on Palestine

By Paul Iddon     Aug 9, 2014 in Politics
A recently disclosed Israeli foreign ministry document presents us with an appropriate time to ponder the feasibility, not to mention the possibility, of a two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Given the present violent impasse between the Israelis and the Palestinians due to the ongoing escalation (the most serious so far) between Hamas and Israel the prospect of a Palestinian state seems like a very vague and unrealistic one. And sadly that is more likely than not the case. Nevertheless there has been talk of resolving the conflict through the creation of some kind of an international force in the Palestinian territories that could in the long run, if successful, facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state.
The Jerusalem Post recently had an exclusive piece about a legal department paper which discusses the prospect of the establishment of an international force in Gaza. The piece, which is well worth a read, discusses the many precedents to such a force in other conflicts that have been resolved through similar arbitration processes – elucidated examples include U.N missions in East Timor, Kosovo and Mali.
It says that some kind of international peacekeeping body established in Gaza once the present war in Gaza is over could serve as a precedent to a similar body being established in the West Bank. Where, unlike in Gaza which the Israelis under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon evacuated in 2005, the Israelis still maintain tens-of-thousands of settlers along with a military ground presence. Many in Israel argue that a withdrawal from there too will only have the same results as Gaza, a haven for violent groups like Hamas on Israel's frontier.
Whether you like Israel or not there is no real argument legally that Israel as a state on the pre-1967 borders is an illegitimate entity. Which to me indicates the necessity for establishing and advocating the establishment of a Palestinian state in the internationally recognized Palestinian territories. Distant a prospect that may at this point in time well seem.
The Jerusalem Post article evaluating the document in question brings up some expected issues. How the presence of such an international force would affect Israel's ability to rapidly retaliate to terrorist attacks launched from say Gaza by smaller groups like Islamic Jihad (the piece alludes to the fact that any potential international force will likely have daily cooperation and bilateral agreements with the Hamas authorities in Gaza, which could in turn serve to afford that organization some legitimacy) who mightn't abide by such a set-up as well as how effective or strong international forces would be in these areas when it comes to the nuts and bolts of enforcing the terms of various bilateral agreements and treaties.
Remember one of the reasons many in Israel justify their country's continued military presence in the West Bank is that their soldiers are not only there in order to protect their fellow citizens, who are essentially settling on land there and hoping to create a 'Greater Israel', but to ensure that Israel's economic hub and largest and most densely populated cities are in the center of the country which is a mere 8-miles wide at its narrowest point is secure. Even if Israel evacuated all its settlers (like it did in Gaza) even those of more dovish persuasions in the Israeli establishment advocate annexing or at least leaving forces in the Jordan Valley to ensure the safety and security of Tel Aviv and that general area.
We should not hasten to forget that just last month Israel's main airport was briefly cut off from international flights because there were fears on the part of international airlines that rockets from Hamas in the south could potentially hit it. In other words, will the international force have real enforcement abilities and not just a more symbolic peacekeeping presence?
We should also remember that just last year the Austrian United Nations peacekeeping forces withdrew from the Golan Heights due to the fact that there was a real danger there to those forces in the form of spillover from the conflict in neighbouring Syria. One senior Israeli official summed up the ridiculousness of it all at the time when he said,
“The only reason you want anyone there in the first place is in time of trouble. For the first time in 40 years, it's not easy so the presence ends? That sends a very problematic message to the Israeli public. This means that in any future deal with the Palestinians, we won't accept any disengagement forces from the United Nations because at the first sign of trouble, they'll disappear.”
The tragedy of these borders, their impracticality and their in-defensibility reeks of the kind of disastrous set-up which are the typical results of essentially all partitions which followed the decline of British power in the world in the century gone by. From India to Ireland such partitions have seen to the populations of those lands suffer from the war and strife which invariably ensued. They were for the most part unjust and have had quite a sordid legacy. Unsavory as the situation now is the international community as it is still has a fair share of the responsibility whereby the status of Israel-Palestine post-partition dispute is concerned.
Interestingly the role of Egypt as an arbiter or indeed a host of such an international mission is brought to play. The piece concludes with the note that Israeli Egyptian relations would likely be affected by such a set-up. Indeed before he became president recently Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi even implied that he would not host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if that he didn't take serious steps Sisi sees as necessary to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Indeed, bar Syria, all of the Arab countries have agreed (as part of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative) to recognize and proceed to normalize ties with Israel proper provided a two-state solution to this conflict is realized.
From our present vantage point a two-state solution now seems like a pipe dream. But like many episodes in history seemingly impossible things do happen. As far as a two-state solution is concerned there is still a long windy road to the final destination that sees to two-states living side-by-side in peace. But it may prove to be a road worth traveling as it is a better alternative for the two peoples who live in that highly contested land. Both of whom have suffered as a direct result of this ongoing conflict.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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