Should NATO Protect the Palestinians?

Israeli hardliners have long rejected the idea of a foreign peacekeeping force on the West Bank because it might restrict Israel’s freedom to attack Palestinians. But such a proposal is now on the table and has put Prime Minister Netanyahu on the spot, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar explains.

By Paul R. Pillar

The suggestion by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas that a NATO force might be indefinitely stationed in a Palestinian state in the West Bank to meet Israeli security concerns sounds at first glance like a can of worms that the United States and its allies would best avoid, and perhaps it is.

It would seem to put Western soldiers in the middle of a conflict so long and so bitter that — even with a peace settlement, of which such a deployment would be one of the terms — some distrust and doubt would linger and some extremist wild cards would still be in play. But the idea should not be peremptorily discarded. Maybe the North Atlantic Council should discuss it.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas

Consider first of all the basic reasonableness of what Abbas was saying. He explicitly recognized that Israel has legitimate security concerns about what would be going on in a Palestinian state on the West Bank, concerns that some sort of security force would have to assuage. He also disavowed creation of a Palestinian army, for that or any other purpose.

But for Israel’s military to stick around in the territories would be indistinguishable from continued occupation, an end to which is a central part of what the peace negotiations are supposed to be about. That leaves the alternative of a third party force.

Consider also precedents, especially that of the peace observation force in the Sinai known as the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), which was created pursuant to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. The MFO is not a NATO mission, but the United States and several other members of NATO participate in it.

(More attention should be given to the Egyptian-Israeli peace as a precedent in other respects as well, including demonstrating what trading land for peace really means and avoiding extraneous negotiation-inhibiting demands such as insisting that one side characterize the other in terms of a particular ethnic or religious group.)

It’s not as if a NATO force in the West Bank would be likely to get in some big fight in the course of performing the mission of helping to keep Israel safe from foreign threats. Much of what the current Israeli government has been saying about such threats is fundamentally phony, especially as it relates to a supposed need to maintain defenses in the Jordan River valley. No NATO force would have to repel an invasion force coming across the river.

Individual acts of terrorism are a different matter, of course. But it cannot be said often enough that a peace agreement that ends the occupation would drastically change the bidding and change the motivation and likelihood of attacks on Israel of any sort.

There would remain the possibility of a terrorist act by a rejectionist fringe, and the stickiest situation in which a NATO force might find itself would come in the wake of such an attack. Israel might then chomp at the bit to do what it has done several times on different azimuths in the past, which is to send its forces across a border and wreak some destruction, with its only hesitation this time being that some NATO troops would be in the way.

If that caused Israeli decision-makers to think twice before launching yet another attack, that would be a good thing. It would be hard for anyone to make a case that Israel’s previous similar attacks, when all their secondary effects are taken into account, have reduced terrorism. It would be easier to make a case that such attacks have strengthened the roots and motivations of further terrorism. It is an ironclad case that such attacks have increased the total number of innocent people killed.

Meanwhile, some positive reaction to Abbas’s suggestion, as a supplement or modification to whatever was in General Allen’s security plan, might have some modest additional benefits.

One would be in effect to call the bluff of the Netanyahu government regarding whether some of what it terms a security need is really just a desire to cling to land. That government is unlikely to change any of its positions in response, but perhaps a few more Israelis would be stimulated to think hard about whether endless conflict and reliance on repeated use of their own military resources is how they really want to live.

Such a gesture might also lend one small bit of balance to the U.S. tilt toward the Israeli negotiating position and thus reduce the chance that the Palestinians will feel they have no choice but to abandon the peace talks. The gesture, moreover, would be one taken in the name of Israeli security.

Finally, if the proposal ever were implemented it might give the old Cold War alliance something useful to do. It would probably be better than endlessly waging a war in Afghanistan.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

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2 comments on “Should NATO Protect the Palestinians?

  1. Allah has promised Israel to the Jews — so says Sheikh Ahmad Adwan, a Muslim scholar living in Jordan, who declared on his Facebook page recently that “Palestine” doesn’t exist.

    Adwan’s statements include quotes from the Koran saying Allah assigned Israel to the Jews until the Day of Judgement (Sura 5 Verse 21), and that Jews are the inheritors of Israel (Sura 26 Verse 59).

    “I say to those who distort…the Koran: from where did you bring the name Palestine, you liars, you accursed, when Allah has already named it ‘The Holy Land’ and bequeathed it to the Children of Israel until the Day of Judgment,” argued Adwan. “There is no such thing as ‘Palestine’ in the Koran.”

    “Your demand for the Land of Israel is a falsehood and it constitutes an attack on the Koran, on the Jews and their land. Therefore you won’t succeed, and Allah will fail you and humiliate you, because Allah is the one who will protect them (i.e. the Jews),” warns Adwan.

    The sheikh had more harsh words for the “Palestinians,” calling them “the killers of children, the elderly and women” in using them as human shields in order to falsely accuse the Jews of targeting them. He reports having seen the same tactic used by “Palestinians” against the Jordanian army in the 1970s.

    “This is their habit and custom, their viciousness, their having hearts of stones towards their children, and their lying to public opinion, in order to get its support,” declared Adwan.

    Adwan has previously said his support for the Jewish people “comes from my acknowledgment of their sovereignty on their land and my belief in the Koran, which told us and emphasized this in many places, like His (Allah’s) saying ”Oh People (i.e the Children of Israel), enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned unto you’” (Sura 5, Verse 21).

    The Jews are a peaceful people according to Adwan, who says “if they are attacked, they defend themselves while causing as little damage to the attackers as possible. It is an honor for them that Allah has chosen them over the worlds – meaning over the people and the Jinns (spiritual creatures) until the Day of Judgment. …When Allah chose them, He didn’t do so out of politeness, and He wasn’t unjust other peoples, it is just that they (the Jews) deserved this.”

    • TheAZCowBoy on said:

      Perhaps the myths written in the Torah are true for the Jews. But, todays Jewish ‘venom’ is the athiest Zionists who respect no religion and wear a yarmalkah ‘only’ as a ‘stage prop’ designed to ‘fool all of the people – all of the time.’ The ‘Torah Jews’ are the purest form of decency in the Jewish world. Unfortunately, the ZioNazi’s ‘laugh at them’ and redicule their beliefs that todays Israel is a farce because the ‘Holy Book’ remind the Jews that it is Jehovah that will create the ‘apple in his eye’ – Eretz Ysriol upon his return.

      If you read the ‘TalMUD’ there you will find racism, hate, iliteism and all the ills of Judiasm. ‘The Goyim was put on earth to serve the Jew.’ ‘A Goyim that has sex with a Jewress is to be put to death. ‘The Jew can have sex with a Goyim’s child with impunity.’ ‘Hell is for the Goyim as no matter how evil a Jew you are – the kingdom of heaven awaits you.’ Indeed,Hitler recognized, having learned it from the Jewish Rothchilds in Germany that indeed, here was a clannish group of people that were there (not for the beer), but to rape the Goyim of everything of value that he owned. Why do you think that greatest pieces of art created in the old world were owned by Jews? Today, everytime a treasure trove of art, gold and silver tresure is discovered – they go the Jews (((clamoring))) to be the ‘rightful owners.’ The AshkanNAZI Jew is the greatest ‘plastic’ Jew on the planet – and the most vicious too – and the least semitic. Most Palestinians are more semitic that these ZioNAZI rats. Hertzel, the founder of ‘Zionism and all of its evils’ was as pure a Jew as ‘Attila-the-Hun.’ and so it goes in todays world of hypocrisy, deciet, lies and half-truths.