Outsiders are required in Israel. The EU should join inby Derek Coombs / January 20, 2002 / Leave a comment
There can be no political solution in Israel/Palestine while Ariel Sharon remains in power. He has the mind of a warrior, not a politician. It is also clear that there can be no solution without the intervention of the major powers. Britain and the rest of the European Union should continue to push America to fetch Israel back to the negotiating table; but the EU should also try to establish as much of a physical presence as possible in the West Bank and Gaza.
It is often said that the Israelis will accept no third party interference in the conflict, apart from America. That is not true. UN forces helped to monitor borders and ceasefires in 1949 and 1956. Since 1973 there has been a highly effective UN force keeping the peace on the Golan Heights (which will eventually have to be returned to Syria as their price for peace). All these UN forces were there with Israeli agreement. As was a multinational force in the Sinai after 1979.
What is more, there are currently at least three separate international monitoring forces in the occupied territories. The CIA, the (primarily Scandinavian) Temporary International Presence in Hebron, and-most significantly-a small group of EU monitors led by of a former MI6 officer which has had some notable successes in Hebron and Beit Jalla. Tony Blair has also proposed that EU monitors be sent to Palestinian jails to check on the Israeli allegations that Hamas terrorists are put inside for a few days and then let out-the so-called “revolving door.” Israel has rejected the offer. But when the political situation becomes more favourable and a real ceasefire becomes possible these monitoring forces should be expanded rapidly.
While suicide bombs are exploding, Israel is less sensitive to outside pressure and opinion. Sharon seems determined to crush the Palestinian Authority and destroy Arafat and has much of Israeli public opinion with him. The Labour party, meanwhile, is in a dilemma: if it withdraws from the coalition it will seem unpatriotic; if Sharon succeeds-at least in the short-term-he gets all the credit. Labour, in any case, is a leaderless mess at present.
But even at this dark hour outside pressure is not irrelevant. Sharon himself is said to be horrified by the war crimes case against him in Belgium. In 1982 Sharon was barred from political office by an Israeli commission investigating his indirect role in the slaughter of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The court case may provide new evidence of his more direct involvement.
The next few weeks in Israel/Palestine are crucial. And the west should grab at any chance to place itself between the two sides.