May 7, 2002
Rebuilding a Damaged
By ROBERT MALLEY
— One of the significant subplots in the current Israeli-Palestinian
confrontation is that while Prime Minister Ariel Sharon loudly denounces
Yasir Arafat for seeking to draw the international community into
the conflict, Israel's actions push inexorably toward that result.
Secretary of State Colin Powell's announcement that an international
conference will be held this summer is but the latest indication.
as the ability of the Palestinian Authority to deliver basic social
services or ensure law and order declines, the prospects for more
robust international intervention increase. Ideas once considered
far-fetched — a peacekeeping force, an international trusteeship
or protectorate over the Palestinian territories — suddenly are
being taken seriously. The question is no longer whether the conflict
will be internationalized, but how. The challenge is to intervene
in a way that accelerates rather than impedes the search for an
long-term strategy behind Israel's military actions may be unclear,
their immediate impact on the Palestinian population is anything
but. The operations have crippled Palestinian security organizations,
sapped the ability of ministries to provide essential services and
divided the territories into disconnected parts.
can legitimately explain some of the Israeli Army's actions. But
in more than one instance, that rationale would be difficult to
sustain. Civilian ministries and medical facilities have been damaged;
equipment and public documents with no discernible intelligence
value, like school records, have been destroyed. The logic behind
these actions appears to have less to do with furthering Israel's
security than with its political goals. The result is that someone
will have to reconstruct those institutions and deliver services.
From Day One,
the Palestinian Authority has had to rely to a large extent on foreign
help. Arguably, every single one of its branches — from security
to financial services — has been supported, sometimes heavily, by
one or several international actors. To take the most conspicuous
example, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
Refugees in the Near East runs roughly half of the social services
in the West Bank and Gaza. But now, given the damage, international
involvement of a far different magnitude may be necessary to help
the Palestinian Authority provide shelter, restore water and sewage
systems, and deliver basic government functions like security and
law and order.
All this explains
why so many are thinking so seriously about putting a transitional
international structure in place.
Of course it
may seem odd to evoke any international presence at this time, given
Israel's refusal to allow a United Nations fact-finding team in
Jenin. The dispute over the fact-finding plan shows the intensity
of Israel's general distrust of international interference, which
it views as a reward for Palestinian violence, and its particular
distrust of the United Nations, which it views as hopelessly anti-Israeli.
But in this situation, there are no appealing alternatives. Israel
would be ill-advised to take on administration of the territories,
and the Palestinian Authority cannot administer them on its own.
Moreover, Israel's objections might well subside if an international
presence helped enhance security for Israelis and if its representatives
came from countries agreeable to both sides.
is to create an international role that reflects the goals and concerns
of the two parties. Lessons from the history of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict and from conflict-resolution efforts elsewhere suggest
a few key principles.
most important, the political end game must be clearly stated. To
introduce an international apparatus without initially defining
the outcome and a time line for reaching that outcome is to invite
constant manipulation by the warring sides. Worse, the international
effort would risk being perceived by the Palestinian people as a
civilian counterpart to Israel's military occupation and therefore
a target of radical militants.
In this instance
the outlines of a final settlement are by now familiar: a sovereign
and nonmilitarized Palestinian state whose borders would be based
on 1967 lines, with land swaps of equal size to accommodate demographic
realities; Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
and Arab neighborhoods as the capital of Palestine; a robust international
force to provide security and monitor implementation of the agreement;
and a solution to the refugee issue that does not threaten Israel's
goal should be to restore the Palestinian Authority's capacity to
operate — not to replace self-government, but to support it. What
smacks of external imposition of control is likely to be treated
opportunity should not be lost to lay the foundation for a truly
modern Palestinian state. In the past decade, Palestinian governance
has proved to be a sorry tale of graft, economic mismanagement and
human rights violations. A broad-based international involvement
can help introduce more accountability and the rule of law. It can
also help turn the Palestinian security forces from a multitude
of competing fiefdoms into a more streamlined, professional police
The 20 months
of fighting since the start of the second intifada may well have
slowed down the process of Palestinian nation-building. But Israel's
recent military actions will almost certainly accelerate the process
of internationalization that Israelis have so far resisted and Palestinians
have so often called for. If done right, the introduction of an
international presence can benefit both sides. It can help increase
security for Israelis and Palestinians, rebuild Palestinian self-government
and provide Israel with assurances regarding Palestinian performance.
Most important, it may begin to set in motion the process that should
lead to the emergence of a viable state of Palestine living side
by side with Israel.
is director of the Middle East Program of the International Crisis
2002 The New York Times Company