Monday, November 13, 2006

International force for Gaza

The following editorial brings up an idea that's been on the back of my mind for a very long time: an international force to be deployed in Gaza. There is of course no shortage of practical problems with the idea. For one, who would make up this force? Europeans would probably be loathe to be seen acting against a good part of Israel's public opinion and possibly be accused of anti-Semitism and at the same time come under Muslim criticism for interfering with the Palestinian Authority. The US, with its close ties to Israel, may not be too keen either.

By Haaretz Editorial

The situation in the Gaza Strip cries out for the world's help. After hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and hundreds of Qassam rockets have landed in Israel, and lacking any exchange between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, the two sides once again cannot extricate themselves from the miserable situation into which they have deteriorated. In light of the situation, the world is called on to intervene directly, as is the norm in other areas of conflict.

There is no need here to detail the danger to peace in the region and indirectly to world peace, as a result of the deterioration in the Gaza Strip. Israel's actions harm innocent civilians, and images of the killing broadcast round the world intensify hatred of Israel: At the same time, Israel cannot reconcile itself with constant rocket fire on its towns. An international force deployed in Gaza, primarily in the areas that border Israel and Egypt, could calm the situation. Both Israel and the Palestinians should be interested in this.

Israel has been deterred in the past from "internationalizing the conflict." It traditionally opposed any international intervention on the assumption that deploying foreign soldiers would limit the Israel Defense Forces and make it difficult for the military to protect Israel.

However, the recent war in Lebanon changed the approach. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was the first to suggest an increased involvement of a UNIFIL force. The prime minister had reservations, but after two weeks he also began to support the solution that is now in force in Lebanon.

This is not a perfect solution. But after having tried everything, and after it became clear that the use of force alone does not solve the problem, there is no other option.

True, an international force did not calm every conflict situation, but there are also positive examples: In Kosovo, for instance, an international force managed to end the acts of terror between the quarreling sides.

Israel left the Gaza Strip, so the presence of an international force would not threaten either Israel's sovereignty or security. The Palestinians have said they are interested in such a force, which could act as their shield against Israeli attacks.

An international force could bring about the end of the Qassam fire, and that is supposed to bring about the end of Israeli military operations. Along with the establishment of a Palestinian unity government, which Hamas will not lead, and which will include mostly experts, this combination of measures could bring new hope. And maybe it would even constitute the basis for the renewal of talks between the sides.

Israel must initiate the move and thus appear interested in calming the situation. The world, for its part, should volunteer for the mission. The prime minister, who has left for political talks in Washington, could bring this idea with him, which has never been tried between Israel and the Palestinians and, in doing so, advance a new reality.

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