Mitchell, Tenet and the road map
Anyone who wants to act seriously on behalf of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement must first think about a new and different security model. Otherwise, the next plan is doomed to the same fate as the previous ones, papers prepared by disconnected officials meant for filing in other officials' cabinets.
How nice it would be to wake up one morning and be back to the world before Camp David and the intifada, without terrorist attacks or renewed occupation, with a friendly Palestinian Authority that talks peace and keeps security. But no such time machine exists and the various plans to end the conflict and revive the peace process seem just as fanciful.
All the proposals and mediation efforts, from the Sharm el Sheikh Declaration, three weeks after the outbreak of the intifada, through the Mitchell and Tenet plans, and to the latest "Road Map" produced by the American administration, have turned out to be worthless - because their authors ignored the basic problems caused by the conflict, the collapse of the security model in the Oslo agreement.
The Palestinians did not fulfill the function meant for them at Oslo, to operate like a kind of beefed up South Lebanese Army that would fight the Hamas and Islamic Jihad and - for a discounted price - protect the Green Line and the settlements. After two years of fighting there's no desire in Israel to go back to "security cooperation" with the Palestinians. The IDF and Shin Bet don't believe their partners of yesteryear and prefer that Israel retain responsibility for security as it has done since Operation Defensive Shield.
Fancy talk about "security reforms" in the PA, that would create a new generation of determined anti-terrorist fighters, are in the best case a fantasy and in the worst an excuse to rebuff international pressure and reject an agreement. The foreign negotiators are well aware of the Israeli position but prefer to ignore it - the "road map," like all the previous plans, is based on gradual renewal of the security cooperation along the lines of the Oslo agreement.
Last week, the Israeli dialogue team, headed by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Communications Minister Reuven Rivlin, met with their Palestinian counterparts, headed by Saeb Erekat and Gen. Haj Ismail. Their conversation was defined as "humanitarian" to satisfy the right wing in the government, but most of the discussion was devoted to security. Erekat and Ismail tried to revive the Palestinian Authority's relevance, and they pleaded for renewed senior-level security coordination. You demand we act, they argued to the Israelis, but you come in and out of our cities without coordinating with us.
Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, head of planning in the IDF, responded harshly. Time and again we tried to cooperate with you and nothing happened except terrorism. We proposed "Gaza First" and you did nothing. We gave you information about terror cells on their way from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, and your people warned the terrorists who were caught near their target. Ismail responded, "I never heard about that, why didn't you complain?"
Eiland told the Palestinians Israel is ready for security coordination, but only at the local level and only with local commanders. "All our brigadiers have instructions to cooperate with their Palestinian counterparts," he said. His meaning was clear - Israel is ready to work with Palestinian subcontractors in divided cantons, but not with the central authority.
The IDF regards international declarations to withdrawals to the lines before the intifada as "unrealistic and irrelevant" because of the changes that have taken place on the ground. Even if a prime minister from the left were elected, it is difficult to see how he would impose on the army a return to Oslo. Obviously, a right wing leader, whether Sharon or Netanyahu, won't even consider it.
Months will pass until the political process is renewed. Israel is going into a difficult election year, Arafat's rule is limping, and the war in Iraq is at the gates. But anyone who wants to act seriously on behalf of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement must first think about a new and different security model. Otherwise, the next plan is doomed to the same fate as the previous ones, papers prepared by disconnected officials meant for filing in other officials' cabinets.