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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 05, 2003

At last, a fresh idea

How stupid can one get? Guardian writer Jonathan Freedland writes of a new plan in which Israel is to just walk away from land taken while trying to save itself from extinction, and let the Palestinians go about their merry way to forge a state! And in return? Not to worry about such matters.
(...)The plan, in short, is for Israel to hand over the West Bank and Gaza not to Yasser Arafat but to a temporary, international protectorate. Instead of Israeli troops continuing to occupy those territories, a multinational force would take their place. Not forever, but for enough time for the Palestinians to get on, unimpeded, with the business of nation-building: creating the political institutions and basic infrastructure they need for a state of their own. When the international "trustees" declared that work done, they would step back and hand over the keys to Palestine's new rulers: the Palestinians.

The beauty of the idea is that it taps into what polls show both sides actually want, while removing the chief obstacle in their way. Israeli surveys, for example, reveal a national split personality, simultaneously both left and right: while close to 70% of Israelis back Sharon's clampdown on Palestinian terror, a similar number would agree to withdraw from the occupied territories, would happily live alongside a Palestinian state, and would even share Jerusalem - so long as they believed this new Palestine would be a safe, unthreatening neighbour. Many Israelis would be only too pleased to wave goodbye to the occupied territories - but they don't want to "reward terror" by handing them over to Arafat, Hamas and the like.

Signing that land over to an international force would be a different matter, especially if (maybe only if) it were US-led. Israelis might trust such a presence to provide security in the short term - stopping any suicide bombers from reaching Israel - and to nurture the embryonic institutions of a democratic Palestine in the longer term. The international custodians would be there to monitor Palestinian elections and to train new civil security personnel. Israelis could be assured that once the new Palestine was fully independent, it would be a neighbour they could live with.

The plan ignores the fact that EU or UN monitoring groups would be anti-Israel, and that Hamas et al have stated that their end goal is to rid the ME of Israel. [more]