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Thursday, September 9, 2010
Israel is concerned about an American proposal to establish a multi-national force in the West Bank as one of the ways to expedite an Israeli withdrawal following any peace deal with the Palestinian Authority.
The idea is being promoted by US National Security Advisor James Jones, who served as security coordinator to the West Bank under former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.
He also served as the top NATO commander in Europe, and therefore is believed to be a proponent of using multinational forces to solve conflicts.
Last week, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak endorsed the concept of an international force in the West Bank in an op-ed piece in The New York Times.
The IDF, with the backing of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, is opposed to the idea and believes that before the Palestinians receive control over the West Bank, they need to be able to independently prevent the creation of a terrorist state.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has also voiced reservations about an international deployment.
Ahead of the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, which opened last week in Washington, the IDF’s Planning Branch drafted a paper outlining Israel’s security needs regarding the West Bank. It was approved by Barak and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen.
The outline refers to three main commitments required of the Palestinians prior to any IDF withdrawal: that there be no rockets smuggled into the West Bank, no resumption of terrorist attacks like those that occurred during the second intifada, and no deployment in the West Bank by foreign military forces, for example by Iraqi troops, should that country one day pose a new military threat to Israel.
“Experience shows us that we cannot trust multi-national forces to do the job like in Lebanon,” one senior defense official said recently. “If the Palestinians are not capable of preventing the rise of terrorism independently, they are not yet ready to receive control of the territory.”
Another idea being floated is the deployment of a pan-Arab force in the Gaza Strip as a way to assist the PA in restoring a foothold there. It was ousted from Gaza during Hamas’s violent takeover three years ago.
Defense officials said the recent Egyptian crackdown on the smuggling of weaponry into Gaza – which continued Tuesday with the reported discovery of a number of significant arms caches in the Sinai – was part of an effort to isolate Hamas.