Between Jabalya and Bint Jbail
The international community has to decide that negotiations to establish a Palestinian state, the effort to suspend the violence and the deployment of a multinational force must take place at one and the same time. The recipe resides in UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
Since the outbreak of the second intifada, which this week "celebrated" six years of suffering and bereavement, the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip has earned itself a reputation as one of the violent points of friction between Israel and the Palestinians. The Israelis grew accustomed to reading about more children killed in the camp during a hunt for "a wanted militant" and the United States grew hardened to reports about the growing plight of the local residents. Europe pays lip service with sparse financial aid for the population, through a Hamas-bypassing conduit, and the United Nations makes do with barren resolutions condemning Israel's iron-fisted policy on the one hand, and the Palestinian Authority's haplessness on the other. The Quartet toys with the road map, and Europe settles for a handful of observers who supervise the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
I asked the Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Moratinos, why four days of battles in the town of Bint Jbail granted Lebanon international involvement of a sort not seen during the six years of intifada in the territories. Why has Europe not offered to date to send a buffer force to distance the Qassam threat from Sderot and assist the PA, even during Fatah's rule, to realize its authority? "There is a big difference between Lebanon and Gaza," explained the European statesman so familiar with the Israeli-Arab conflict. "In contrast to the occupied territories, Lebanon is a sovereign country with a central government, law and proper army." He promised that some day, after the sides sign a peace agreement, it will be possible to talk about an international force to help implement that agreement in Gaza and the West Bank. He pointed out that there is even a reference to that in his summary of the Taba talks in February 2001.
This is the vicious cycle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; so long as negotiations over the establishment of a Palestinian state are frozen, the Palestinians will not cease the violent resistance to the occupation. So long as the violent resistance continues, Israel will refuse to resume negotiations over the establishment of a Palestinian state. So long as there is no peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, the international community will not dispatch a peace-keeping force to the area. Bitter experience teaches that without the help of a third party, the sides cannot end the violence or reach an accord.
Breaking this cycle is the key to ending the conflict. The international community has to decide that negotiations to establish a Palestinian state, the effort to suspend the violence and the deployment of a multinational force must take place at one and the same time. The recipe resides in UN Security Council Resolution 1701. You have to replace the word "Lebanon" with "the occupied Palestinian territories," "Hezbollah" with "Hamas" and the "Blue Line" with "Green Line."
Here is the result: "The Security Council calls for the immediate cessation by Hamas of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations, and the deployment of Palestinian forces and UN forces in Gaza and the West Bank ... The Council calls on the sides to support a permanent cease-fire and comprehensive solution to the conflict, based on full respect of the Green Line; security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons and the disarmament of all armed groups in the territories ... The Council authorizes the deployment of an international force of 15,000 troops in the territories, to monitor the cessation of hostilities, coordinate its activities with both governments and assist the Palestinian security services. The Council reiterates the importance of full respect for the Green Line and requests the Secretary-General to develop, in liaison with relevant international actors and the concerned parties, proposals to delineate the international border."
Like all the resolutions relating to the conflict, Resolution 1701 ends with the sentence: "The Security Council stresses the importance of, and the need to achieve, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on all its relevant resolutions including its resolutions 242 and 338." If indeed this is an "important need" - let the international community start taking seriously these two toothless resolutions. What was good last year for Bint Jbail cannot be worse for Jabalya next year.