US plans to send 10 monitors to Mideast
- Washington Post
U.S. Planning to Send Monitors to Mideast
By Alan Sipress
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 27, 2001; Page A24
The Bush administration plans to dispatch about 10 monitors drawn largely
from the State Department to assess the adherence of Israelis and
Palestinians to steps proposed to restrain Middle East violence and advance
The emerging U.S. proposal calls for the monitors, likely headed by longtime
diplomat Richard W. Erdman, to begin their mission once a "sustained period
of quiet" has taken hold. While U.S., Israeli and Palestinian officials
disagree over the definition of calm, the Bush administration has said it is
looking for about a week of substantially reduced violence.
Much of the team's mission would be office work, evaluating Israeli and
Palestinian conduct. But monitors also would visit the scenes of clashes,
attacks and other provocative activity to gather evidence, a State
Department official said. To assist in this, the team could include an
intelligence expert, perhaps from the CIA, and military personnel with
battlefield experience, the official said.
The proposal for a U.S. monitoring team would inject the Bush administration
into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a new and novel way and reflects
the alarm that many U.S. officials feel about the 10-month surge of
As the death toll on both sides has mounted, the Palestinians have clamored
for a large force of international observers to protect them against Israeli
security forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli officials have long
objected to observers, fearing bias.
A week ago, the United States joined with seven other major industrialized
countries in urging the deployment of monitors. The declaration by the Group
of Eight countries caused consternation among some Israelis, though U.S.
officials had sought to protect their interests by opposing any references
to an "international" force and insisting that both sides must approve any
Israeli officials, who fear that even a highly circumscribed observer team
could eventually take on a far-reaching role, recently have indicated they
could accept a slightly expanded role for the CIA. The agency now runs
security meetings between the two sides.
The U.S. proposal for a "modest" monitoring presence falls far short of the
Palestinians' hopes but will likely win their acceptance, U.S. officials
A State Department official said the team would not regularly be posted at
frequent flash points. Instead, monitors could be dispatched to report on
violence at, for instance, the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, or
around the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip. "If something
happens at Gilo, go to Gilo. If something happens at Netzarim, go to
Netzarim," the official said.
He added that the monitors would use their field reports to offer judgments
on responsibility. "It would be an independent party saying this is what we
believed happened," the official said.
Israeli sources, however, said their understanding of the U.S. proposal was
more limited. In particular, they said the monitors would not serve as
judges or arbitrate between the sides.
Under the U.S. plan, the team's specific charge would be to monitor
compliance with the recommendations of the Mitchell Commission, which have
been accepted by both sides. The commission's report calls for a
"cooling-off period" during which each side is to take steps to ease
tensions, including Palestinian efforts to crack down on militants and
Israeli measures to lift the economic siege on Palestinian areas and halt
U.S. officials intend to raise the monitoring proposal with both sides,
including in meetings Tuesday with visiting Israeli cabinet secretary Gideon
Saar, according to U.S. and Israeli sources. A State Department official
would likely travel to the Middle East to consult with leaders about the
proposal before any team is sent, a U.S. official said.
"The idea of third-party monitoring is something which would have to be
accepted by both sides, and that's the premise of the whole idea," William
J. Burns, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, told a
House subcommittee yesterday. "What we're talking about is a fairly modest
mechanism that both sides might see as a way to facilitate implementation of
Administration officials said they were considering several models for the
team's structure and operations, including the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring
Group, established after Israel's 1996 Grapes of Wrath attack on Lebanon.
The ILMG, which includes representatives of the United States, France,
Israel, Lebanon and Syria, reviews alleged violations of the understandings
that ended the Israeli campaign.
For two years, the American envoy to ILMG and its co-chairman was Erdman,
who is being considered as head of the monitoring team. Erdman directs the
State Department office responsible for Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. He
previously served as the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Israel.
� 2001 The Washington Post Company
Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp