- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2000

An official Israeli communique says it opposes an international or United Nations force to observe the peace.

But Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami has already amended the government statement. He said recently in Paris that, "Israel never rejected an international force," and "Israel will agree to the sending of international observers to the territories as long as it is done in the context of new 'planned stages' for a permanent arrangement between the parties." This is a total surrender to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The idea of an international force is an effort to increase the role of the United Nations and to de-Americanize the mediator's role. If Israel agrees to this plan, Mr. Arafat has won by upstaging the conflict, which will legitimize his violence, the purpose of which was to secure outside intervention.

The most recent experiences with U.N. observers demonstrate the ineffectiveness and futility of such an approach. In 1994, a temporary international observer force was established to protect the Palestinians of Hebron after the Mosque massacre by a Jewish settler. If their purpose was to give Palestinians and Israelis a sense of security, their success has been negligible. Israelis and Palestinians continue to shoot at each other in Hebron.

Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon recently, and a U.N. force was placed at the border to protect the Israelis from the Hezbollah efforts to warm up the border with Israel. The impotent U.N. force has not even lifted a finger to protect Israel, and in fact the most recent alliance between Sheik Nassaralah and Bashar Assad, where the junior Syrian dictator has given Hezbollah a free hand to Lebanon, could mean a serious conflagration between Israel and Syria if Hezbollah continues its pernicious activities.

The readers must be reminded of the famous 1982 massacre in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla where an international peacekeeping force was established, except that it did not protect the U.S. Marines from being blown up by Hezbollah.

Why is this type of peacekeeping so ineffective in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Peacekeeping forces are of no value when the parties have not resolved their major issues. In the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict, peacekeeping has been successful so far in the Sinai and in the Golan Heights. This is because the Egyptians signed a peace treaty with Israel, and the Syrians accepted joint troop withdrawal. In other words, the two parties, calling for an end to violence, jointly accepted the role of an international peacekeeping force. This is why in the last 20 years there have been no violations of the agreements.

When it comes to the Palestine issue, Mr. Arafat's efforts to involve outside observers and peacekeepers are designed to advance his political agenda. Therefore, the observers will serve either as surrogates of Mr. Arafat, victims of the two parties, or most likely will be irrelevant. U.N. observers in this case would not be peace-enhancing forces, but rather would further the violence. The Palestinians continue to violate the agreement and will hide behind outside observers to continue their low-intensity war against Israel. The U.N. force will become an instrument of Mr. Arafat's political and military ambitions to establish a Palestine state by blood and fire.

The highly respected liberal defense analyst in the liberal Ha'aretz newspaper, Ze'ev Schiff, wrote on Nov. 14 that Mr. Arafat seeks a Kosovo solution for the Palestine issue. Mr. Arafat hopes U.N. or international observers will play a role as NATO did in Kosovo, i.e. taking the side of the so-called "oppressed." Every intelligent observer knows Mr. Arafat is closer to Slobodan Milosevich than to the Albanian rebels. There is no way in the world a Western-oriented or U.N.-organized international force will play his game. The analogy with Kosovo is pernicious and false.

We must remember there are essentially two major types of peace observers. Peacemaking means intervention in the conflict, as was the case in Kosovo when the United States and NATO forcefully evicted the Serbs. Peacekeeping is meant to retain a peaceful status quo, and is no solution for an open and raging conflict. It will only exacerbate it.

In 50 years of Arab-Israeli conflict, the United Nations has not only demonstrated its pro-Arab orientation, but also its impotence in peacekeeping. After the 1949 Israeli-Egyptian, Israel-Jordanian and Israeli-Syrian armistice, the U.N. peacekeeping operations continuously recommended that Israel be reprimanded and charged with aggression. The then Security Council patron of the Arabs, the Soviet Union, consistently supported the Arab side in the conflict. The United States seldom supported the Israel case with the Security Council. Only since the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty has the United States vetoed anti-Israeli resolutions in the Security Council.

The U.N. General Assembly has been dominated by the Afro-Asian-Arab bloc, which predictably votes for a torrent of anti-Israeli resolutions, ever since the establishment of Israel. The European Union's most anti-Israel member, France, has taken the side of the Arabs and Palestinians shamelessly. Oil and greed, not humanitarianism, is the source of French foreign policy. It is the French who are behind and supporting Mr. Arafat's effort to establish an international observer force between him and the Israelis. No responsible government will survive such an act, and this could effect the real demise of the confused, left-leaning Barak government.

Amos Perlmutter is a professor of political science and sociology at American University and editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies.

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