NATO Should Deploy Troops in Middle
Lord Owen is a former foreign minister of Great Britain.
London-The Arab-Israeli dispute on the face of
it has rarely looked worse. Yet beneath the apparent deadlock are features
that give grounds for limited optimism and that can be built on to provide
the basis for a settlement.
Firstly, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is the only Likud leader
to accept a Palestinian state as part of a settlement. In this he carries
the majority of the Likud voters, and by opposing a Palestinian state
former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is left with only party activists
to confront President George Bush.
Secondly, for the first time, the Saudis-as the guardians of the holiest
sites-are involved through the proposals of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah
in a deal with full normalization. This makes a resolution of Jerusalem
easier than having them as absent critics.
Thirdly, Palestinians involved with the administration established by
Yasser Arafat realize there have to be fundamental changes. Its main financial
sponsors-whether the European Union or UN agencies-cannot help rebuild
Palestinian infrastructure without real evidence that corruption has stopped
and that democratic procedures are being introduced.
President Bush should be able to maintain the first two of these new features.
But the United States will need help with the third feature where the
Palestinians could easily back off reform. The newly established "quartet"
mechanism-consisting of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Russian
foreign minister, the EU high representative for common foreign and security
policy and the UN Secretary General-should examine urgently the option
of independent administration and fair and free elections prior to Palestinian
statehood. Probably the best solution would be temporary administration
by the quartet and, alternatively, the European Union.
The next and most crucial step lies within the White House, for there
the style of the US negotiating effort will be formulated. There is a
long history of different techniques to choose from, starting from President
Eisenhower's principled stance over Suez, Henry Kissinger's Syrian-Israeli
shuttle diplomacy and the Camp David negotiations of Presidents Carter
and Clinton. Today's choice is simplified by the fact that any remaining
goodwill, generated through the Oslo Accords, was finally lost in Jenin,
negating face-to-face talks between the parties. That will not return
for some years, and the rest of the world is not prepared to wait that
long, seeing the resolution of the Middle East as a distinct but necessary
element to resolve in the struggle against Muslim extremism.
The US should decide to place before the parties a final-status plan that
will involve delineation of the territory that the two states would occupy.
Reinforcing that plan will necessitate US forces on the ground to overcome
genuine security fears. The political climate for such a military deployment
appears greater in the US following Sept. 11 than ever before. In his
way Sharon has helped convince many Americans not just that Palestinian
suicide bombers are an aspect of international terrorism but that American
intervention, both militarily and politically, is essential.
As so often in the midst of conflict, the key to peace lies in agreeing
to a map. A final-status map, not an interim map, might mean Palestinians
regaining in terms of hectares close to 100 percent of what they lost
in 1967, but it would not mean returning to the same land. A swapping
of land is made far easier now by the fact that Arabs living in Israel
are to an unprecedented extent questioning their continued Israeli citizenship.
Also, many more Israelis are wondering whether they can feel secure with
Arabs living in such numbers and on so many hectares within Israel as
part of a two-state solution. This mutual ambivalence holds the key not
only to a territorial resolution but also to allowing some Palestinian
refugees to return to what has been ever since 1947 Israeli territory.
It also allows the Israelis to keep some of those Jewish settlements in
the West Bank that were established for predominantly security reasons.
It is abundantly clear that it is not possible to create a Palestinian
state that is territorially coherent and self-sustaining pockmarked throughout
with Israeli settlements. And yet Sharon can only be persuaded to pull
back from those settlements if he sees American forces on the ground capable
of ensuring Israeli security, not just from border incursions but even
in the last analysis from invasion. It would be better for American troops
to have international troops alongside them, but this is for the US to
resolve with Israel. A NATO deployment involving Turkish troops and following
the Balkan precedent involving Russian troops would be best.
A US-proposed map can build on the Taba negotiations of January 2001 that
moved the Palestinian state from 93 percent to 97 percent of the hectorage
Palestinians held in 1967 and allowed 250,000 Israeli settlers to remain.
The map will have to reflect existing water tables, underground aquifers
and provisions for desalination plants. Secure water supplies are as essential
to a two-state solution as military deployments. Interstate trade and
the movements of peoples will initially be very constrained, and the old
emphasis on economic links between the two states will have to take a
back seat until mutual confidence emerges. This means that Saudi Arabia,
Jordan and Egypt must play a part in building up the economy of the Palestinian
state, and if the Americans can convince the Arabs, the Palestinians will
accept a US-proposed map.
Some will say that Sharon will never give up his own map, which concedes
only 50 percent of the 1967 hectorage. But he knows the present situation
is unsustainable. To take but two examples: a whole armored infantry regiment
is defending 300 settlers in Hebron, and Israel has lost 15 soldiers with
34 wounded in defending the Netzarim settlement in Gaza. Israelis will
not respond to economic sanctions, but if they reject a firm and fair
US plan, they are inviting Washington to walk away.
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