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My Take on the Israeli/Palestinian dilemma

Reader comment on item: Does Israel Need a [Peace] Plan?

Submitted by Hector Fernandez (United States), Nov 7, 2003 at 10:07

I have a serious problem with the Bush administration's recent "roadmap" to peace by the fact that it calls for the withdrawal of only some of the Israeli settlements in the W. Bank. The Palestinians will never have full sovereignty with the Israeli administration and habitation of land in the W. Bank. Hamaas, if allowed to continue their operations, they will divert their attacks upon the settlements and Israel proper until the settlements are withdrawn (the Israeli's will never agree to that). I feel the agreement does not properly address Israeli legitimate security concerns and Palestinian demands of sovereignty. I don't think it will succeed. Also it doesn't properly address the re-patriotization of the Palestinians who live in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

The only solution is this. A full withdrawal of the settlements out of the Palestinian territories. This is not totally unprecedented as a similar withdrawal occurred in the Sinai Peninsula after the 1977 Camp David peace accords. Though it did create some internal domestic political turmoil within Israel it did allow the full return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. This stabilized the political/military situation between Egypt and Israel and those two nations and the concern of a repeat of the 1973 Yum Kippur war has virtually been eliminated.

All the Palestinians want is their own country, even if it is out in the middle of the desert. To have their own sovereignty will be meaningless with the existence of dozens of Israeli settlements criss-crossing their country. If those settlements are allowed to continue to exist then Israel's influence in Palestine will surely interfere and conflict with the Palestinian authority's ability to govern their country. The solution is clear: All Israeli settlements must be removed from the West Bank. The end of Israeli settlements in the West Bank is not totally an unorthodox (no pun intended) idea. It was agreed upon in the Clinton brokered Oslo accords in the early 1990's but Israel chose to renege on that deal out concerns of National Security.

Once the settlements have been removed, the issue of Israeli security must be addressed. A barrier (fence or wall) must be erected to separate the borders between the Palestinian territories and Israel itself. This is more than viable option as the borders are fairly easily definable.
The barrier will serve a dual purpose. It will form a physical barrier between the countries and will totally cut off the access of the Palestinian terrorist groups into Israel. This will occur while simultaneously allowing Palestinian day laborers into Israel after having security checks performed to ensure they are un-armed and pose a minimal threat upon Israel. The Palestinian and Israeli economies are integrated and form a symbiosis. The Palestinians are very dependent on Israel as 80% of Palestinians earn their income in one way or another through work in Israel. The Israelis are dependent on cheap Palestinian laborers for construction and other manual labor. This symbiosis is unlikely to change in the near future.
This barrier would need to be monitored by an international peacekeeping force that would be able to watch every inch of this border to ensure unauthorized access between the two countries is halted. Little work would need to be done on this as a United Nations peacekeeping force is already in existence in the Golan Heights consisting of a contingent of Nordic countries and U.S. Military Advisors. I served in this Advisory detachment several years ago and still have several Norwegian friends who are serving in the Golan Heights under the UN flag. The latest estimates state that an initial observer force would require at least 20,000 troops and the number could be reduced at stability takes hold. This number is relatively low considering we have over 300,000 currently serving in the Persian Gulf area of operations and would consist of a multi-national force to alleviate the burden incurred on any one country and will add to the legitimacy of the mission.

The West Bank and the Gaza strip would form the new Palestine. The road that separates the two territories and crosses through Israel would have to be monitored and a barrier would also have be erected on both sides of the road to restrict access into Israel while allowing internal commerce within Palestine.
One issue that has seriously been neglected is the subject of the over 3 million Palestinian refugees who currently live in refugee camps in Southern Lebanon and Jordan. These refugees have been a significant political and economic burden upon Lebanon and Jordan and are a destabilizing weight upon those two countries. Israel must allow the return of these people into Palestine and recognize their citizenship as Palestinians. Of course, Palestinian national recognition both by Israel and internationally must occur almost without saying. With the re-patronization of the refugees, it will stabilize Israel's relationship between its two neighbors.

Syria will have to accept the fact that the return of the Golan Heights by Israel can not occur. The Golan Heights are of little significance to Syria other than being symbolic. Control of water from the G. Heights can be distributed by an international monitoring force. Israel depends on the Golan Heights for water. On a tactical/strategic level Israel must control the Golan Heights as the cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv are within tube artillery range of the heights. The Israeli's can not afford to lose those heights and the Syrians have already showed signs that they are willing to concede their claims in exchange for security agreements. The Syrians are of course upset at the Israeli's. In the Mid 1990's the Syrians agreed to crack down heavily on Hezbollah terror cells within the Palestinian refugee camps in North Lebanon and Syria. In exchange Israel went into lengthy negotiations for the return of the Golan Heights to Syria (the original owners prior to the 1967 war). Israel entered these negotiations with absolutely no intention of returning the Golan to Syria. This is obvious by the fact that the Israeli's focused occupied territory settlement construction in the Golan during this time.
The solution of Jerusalem is too long to include in this email but dual ownership between the Palestinian authority and Israel is unquestionable and the city is too significant on both sides to expect the other to make concessions. Both sides at one point of time have publically declared a willingness to split control of the city.
I know about the military aid provided to Israel as I did have a hand in it. Before I was in this job I was the Commander of the International Student Training Detachment (ISTD) here at Ft. Benning. It is like the School of the Americas (WHINSEC) but for the rest of the world. WHINSEC trained just Latin American officers and soldiers. The ISTD trained the rest of the world to include 87 countries. We came under the Security Assistance Training Program that is mandated and funded by the State Department and Congress. You didn't hear much about us because none of my guys had committed any war crimes and we didn't have any protesters (yet). My detachment trained guys from every continent and nearly every country to include Israel, Lebanon and Egypt. The soldiers between these countries got along great and left here with a better understanding of each other's cultures. Our support of Israel is relatively small when you take into account the amount of Military aid and training we provide to Israel's Arab Neighbors. We provide just as much money to Egypt alone. Three times the amount of aid goes to Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen and Saudi Arabia combined. Not that many people know that but I know first hand it is true. The USA is the largest supporter of financial and military aid to those countries as well and claims that the USA is biased against Arabs and Muslim dominant countries is unfounded.
The Israeli's sent 2 soldiers here to attend Sniper training last year. I felt pretty guilty about having to training these guys, as it was almost indubitable about their role in the Occupied Territories once they received this training. I personally ensured my instructors would fail them out of the course within the first 8 hours of training and we did send them home within 72 hours. A couple of days later, I received a phone call from the Israeli Minister of Defense who apologized for sending these guys who could not meet our standards. I like to think of that as my contribution to the Palestinian people but I serious doubt I would get a parade for it. :-)
I had to leave that job (as awesome as it was because I got to travel and was recognized by face and name by numerous people in the American and international governments). I had to leave because I had been hospitalized for a couple of months from my surgery from the accident. I currently work in the Army infantry center's Operations Directorate. I manage all courses here that are attended by American and international trainees. Unfortunately I do this behind a desk and phone and I don't get that hands on interaction I used to have but I have more access to political/military developments then ever before. But my comments are my personal ones and in no way are they my professional and not the official stance of the U.S. Governemnt.

Any comments would be appreciated.

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