I was just thinking a little more about the global-political context within which any soon-foreseeable Palestinian-Israeli final peace might be concluded… That was after writing this blog post yesterday in which I looked briefly at the question of the international auspices under which any peacekeeping/peace-monitoring force might be deployed to the OPTs.
I noted there that the body or bodies directing the PK force would most likely be the body or bodies directing the diplomatic effort to achieve the peace agreement. Which in the present context would be the U.S.-led Quartet.
The Quartet’s three “junior” partners are the E.U., Russia, and– quite anomalously– the U.N. (The U.N. certainly should not be the junior partner of any single member state. It’s supposed to represent the interests of the whole of humanity.) I very much doubt, however, if any of those junior partners would be prepared to supervise, underwrite, or contribute troops to the maintenance of a PK force sent to “keep” any form of peace that does not meet the full requirements of international law.
Most peacekeeping forces around the world are supervised by either the U.N. or by the relevant regional organization like, in West Africa, ECOWAS. One major exception, that is in the Middle East, is the U.S.-led Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) that supervises the U.S.-brokered peace treaty that Egypt and Israel concluded in 1979. The MFO has 12 national contingents, all of them coming from very strongly pro-U.S. nations. Those countries’ governments are happy to contribute forces because they know that this peace is a stable one that is strongly underwritten at the political level by the U.S.– and because it is fully based on the international-law principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force. Egypt did not cede one inch of its national territory to Israel in the peace agreement, though it did of course agree to very extensive demilitarization measures, economic terms highly favorable to Israel, etc.
But because that peace is both stable and based on international law, participation in the MFO has never, to my knowledge, come in for any serious criticism from the publics of those nations contributing forces.
So now, let’s come to the challenge of forming and supervising a PK force to keep an Israeli-Palestinian peace…
Which nations are going to contribute troops to this force, and under whose supervision?
In the CNAS study (PDF) I was writing about yesterday, Marc Lynch even posited as one of the “scenarios” he was considering, the idea that the PK force– whose supervisory auspices he studiously avoided discussing– might have to engage in some counter-insurgency missions against Hamas’s very extensive networks in the West Bank!
(Hamas, remember, being the party that won the PA’s 2006 parliamentary elections.)
Truly, how many countries are going to be contributing troops to this PK force?
But also, how many governments or or inter-governmental bodies would be willing to participate– in either a supervisory/legitimizing capacity, or a troop-contributing capacity– in a peacekeeping operation designed to “keep” any peace that would fall far short of the requirements of international law?
I think the answer to that question is that only one seriously-sized government anywhere in the world would be willing to consider doing that, and that is the U.S. But this is really a non-starter. Can anyone imagine the reaction worldwide (and in the region) if the U.S. were to try to dominate a PK force in the OPTs, with a big part of the mandate of the force being to protect Israel’s illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank from the many Palestinians– including the actual owners of many of those lands– who still maintain their claims to them?
We are not in 1979.
Back then, the U.S. stood aside the world and was able to convince everyone else that it could (and perhaps even should) monopolize the entire diplomacy of Arab-Israeli peacemaking. Jimmy Carter and his team were also able to persuade the Israeli government of the day that, despite its earlier desire to hang onto much of the Egyptian territory of Sinai, indeed it could not; and it would have to withdraw completely to the international border. Hence that peace agreement met the requirements of international law.
Today’s U.S. president is not nearly as powerful– either within world politics, or even, it seems, in the ongoing tussle of wills with Israel.
For all these reasons, it therefore seems to me quite implausible that the U.S. could hope to replicate the MFO model of 1979 and plan to deploy a U.S.-led “coalition of the willing” type of PK force in the OPTs.
The “willing” are far less numerous, and far less willing, than they used to be. Even NATO, having gotten dragged by Washington into both the war in Afghanistan and the beefed-up UNIFIL operation in Lebanon, now has many members who reportedly pushed back hard against Jim Jones’s late-2008 suggestion that NATO run the post-peace (and perhaps also the peri-peace) PK force in the OPTs.
I think everyone is agreed that if there is to be a two-state outcome in the foreseeable future–a HUGE ‘if’ there– then the Palestinian state that thereby emerges would be substantially demilitarized. (Personally, I think that in the context of a comprehensive peace, that includes the Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli tracks as well, then Israel should emerge substantially demilitarized, as well… But that’s a slightly different issue.)
But if the Palestinian state is demilitarized, then the citizens of that state of course need considerable reassurances that they won’t be subjected to resumed forms of Israeli aggression. They would thus probably need some form of international force to help provide that reassurance– as well as to help police their side of the border against any attempts by Palestinian militants to breach it.
Probably the best kind of force for that purpose would be one in which both the Palestinian citizens themselves, and the “international community”, and Israel, all have high confidence. A Turkish-led force is one model that immediately comes to mind. A U.N. force is another. (After all, UNDOF and UNTSO have very successfully kept Israel’s 1974 ceasefire line with Syria quite quiet for the past 36 years.) Actually, a Turkish-led U.N. force would seem to me to be the best of all possible options.
Bottom line here: Any PK force that goes into Palestine in the context of an Israeli-Palestinian two-state peace has to have a high degree of international legitimacy, both in its institutional structure and in the content of the peace that it’s keeping. The model of a U.S.-led force, that worked in 1979, is incapable of working today. It’s the U.N. or nothing.
Therefore, if the folks in the Obama administration truly want to see a stable, two-state peace emerge, then they will need to find a way to hand the peace-making baton over to the U.N. as rapidly as possible.
But maybe they don’t want it that strongly?