Thursday, June 14, 2012
IMRA Weekly Commentary: Time to set benchmarks for Palestinian compliance
14 June '12..
Here’s a snapshot of the situation today:
1. The Palestinians have many thousands of rockets, anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank missiles, and other illegal weapons in the Gaza Strip. Every Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip, including the ruling Hamas, has its own stocks of these weapons.
2. The official position of the Palestinian Authority is that there are no illegal weapons in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian videos documenting the launching of rockets and missiles are not considered evidence by the PA as they only document equipment that, by definition, the Palestinians no longer have since they already shot them.
3. Israel’s official position is that in the event that the Gaza Strip comes again under the control of the PA that the PA would be obligated to collect the illegal weapons. Israel also insists that a PA unity government that includes Hamas would not be legitimate unless Hamas changed. Demands for changes by Hamas have been reiterated by the Quartet.
So far so good?
Let’s apply what we have learned from the Oslo experience:
1. If the day comes that Mahmoud Abbas cuts a deal with Hamas to form a unity government, Hamas will no doubt issue an official statement. If at that particular point in time American officials believe it serves American interests to support the unity government then America will welcome the statement as fulfillment of the Quartet requirements. It won’t matter what else Hamas officials may say or write in Arabic at the very same time. Israel would be alone.
2. American officials would take the position that in light of the fragile nature of the unity government that security related performance demands that might raise inter-Palestinian tensions be kept to a minimum.
3. To further “encourage” the unity government, American security officials would issue glowing reports of “progress” by the unity government.
4. Israeli complaints raised after the formation of the unity government about the massive stores of illegal weapons in the Gaza Strip (and even the transfer of some of these weapons to the West Bank) would be dismissed as nothing more than a desperate Israeli attempt to delegitimize a Palestinian government recognized across the world.
5. In the best case, Israeli complaints would be silenced by a photo-op of a handful of rockets seized and destroyed in an operation praised by the White House.
Yes, the above is all speculation about the future. But it is an accurate description of what happened on numerous occasions during the course of the Oslo experience.
Israeli officials maintain that Gaza – West Bank reunification won’t happen in the foreseeable future so it is premature to spend time on the matter.
The opposite is the case.
Now is the time to set performance benchmarks for a Palestinian unity government.
Not the vague expectation that they “seize illegal weapons” but instead serious numerical performance benchmarks.
If we don’t want to find ourselves stuck with the State Department praising the seizure and destruction of five rockets instead of insisting that five thousand be destroyed we have to establish benchmarks and repeat them over and over again at every opportunity.
We should go another step, discussing with American and other security officials what mechanisms would be employed to either verify the destruction of illegal weapons or to receive the weapons and remove them from the area.
And since Gaza-West Bank reunification is perceived today as such a remote possibility, foreign security officials may be considerably more willing to discuss the illegal weapons issue and set expectations.
Again: If we try to do any of the above after a unity government is formed it will be dismissed as an Israeli attempt to undermine the “peace process”.
If we fail to act now there is every reason to expect that the world will insist that the illegal weapons be ignored and that Israel continue with its “silence for silence” policy according to which the Palestinians can deploy basically any weapons system in unlimited quantities as long as they don’t use them – for the time being.
Updates throughout the day at http://calevbenyefuneh.blogspot.com. If you enjoy "Love of the Land", please be a subscriber. Just put your email address in the "Subscribe" box on the upper right-hand corner of the page.Twitter updates at LoveoftheLand as well as our Love of the Land page at Facebook.