A disarmed Palestinian state?
- Should a future Palestinian state be disarmed? Should US or NATO
troops be stationed along the Jordan River? Would a two-state
solution allow for one of the states to be less-than-fully sovereign
when it comes to importing arms and stationing troops along the border?
A disarmed Palestinian state?
THE JERUSALEM POST
During an off-the-record meeting in Washington, DC on November 10, one
of Obama's senior foreign policy advisers stated that pushing a
two-state solution on Israel and the Palestinians had to take place
with great urgency, as it was the best way to turn around the Middle
East (which he defined as including Afghanistan and Pakistan). Three
elements of the plan the United States is to push are well known (no
refugee return, a divided Jerusalem, and redrawn 1967 borders), but
the fourth is much less often explored. Namely that the Palestinian
state be disarmed and that US or NATO troops be stationed along the
I suggest that this fourth condition is a dangerous trap, despite the
fact that such troops played a very salutary role in the DMZ in Korean
and - during the Cold War - in Germany. Before I proceed I should note
that I am free to quote what was said at the meeting, but not to
mention who said what or the name of the organization that hosted the
meeting. I should also note that the same ideas are found in a new
book America and the World, wholly composed of interviews with
Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, conducted by Washington Post
columnist David Ignatius. In the book, both interviewees agreed that
"They [Israel and the Palestinians] need a heavier hand by the United
States than we have traditionally practiced." Brzezinski suggests "an
American line along the Jordan River," and Scowcroft favors putting a
"NATO peacekeeping force" on the West Bank.
HOW CAN I count the ways the fourth condition is a dangerous trap?
First of all, while the first three conditions are almost impossible
to reverse once in place, the fourth one can be changed by a simple
act of Congress or an order by a future American president, or - the
current one. Abba Eban once compared a United Nations force stationed
on the Israeli-Egyptian border, which was removed just before Nasser
attacked Israel, as an umbrella that is folded when it rains. The new
umbrella is not much more reliable.
Second, the American troops in Iraq, and the NATO ones in Afghanistan,
are unable to stop terrorist bombs and rocket attacks in those parts.
There is no reason to hold that they would do better in the West Bank.
Third, there are very few precedents for demilitarized states - by force.
A two-state solution means to practically everyone involved, except a
few foreign policy mavens, two sovereign states. A sovereign state is
free to import all the arms and troops it wants. One second after the
Palestinian state is declared, many in the Arab world, Iran, and
surely in Europe, not to mention Russia and China, will hold that
"obviously" the new free state cannot be prevented from arming itself,
whatever it says on some parchment or treaty. And if this not allowed,
whatever therapeutic effects the creation of a Palestinian state may
engender will be about the same size as the ending of the Israeli
occupation of Gaza had - either too small to measure or a negative one.
A strong case for a two-state solution has been made, but it better be
based on the Palestinians developing their own effective forces and an
Israeli presence on the Jordan River. Neither can rely on the United
States, beleaguered as it is, or conflict- and casualty-averse NATO to
show the staying power for peacekeeping which neither mustered in
Kosovo, Bosnia, or Haiti, and which they have never provided in Sudan
and the Congo.
There is a new dawn in America, but when the sun rises in Washington,
it is often close to sunset in the Middle East.
Amitai Etzioni is Professor of International Relations at The George
Washington University. For more discussion, see his book: Security
First (Yale, 2007) or www.securityfirstbook.com
Etzioni can be reached at comnet@....
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