Former US Peace Envoy Dennis Ross offers his solutions for the Gaza standoff in a Jerusalem Post Op-Ed.
They are wonderful solutions in every respect but one: They cannot be implemented, because they are predicated on false assumptions about how the Middle East works. They serve to illustrate why Ross's mission, mediation of the Oslo Accords, failed. They explain why US policy in Iraq and in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and regarding the Iranian nuclear development problem, and regarding Syria, have so little hope of success.
While Iran continues to push Hamas and others to carry out attacks against Israel, it is Syria that provides the headquarters and sanctuary to the external leadership of Hamas. Maybe Syria must come to see that it is in its interest to force Khaled Mashaal to order those who hold Cpl. Gilad Shalit to release him.
Surely, if Mashaal thought he would be forced to leave the comfort and safety of Damascus, he would think twice about the value of holding Shalit.
This is no doubt true, except that there is probably no way to make Syria see that is in its interest to force Khaled Mashaal to order the release of Corporal Shalit. The US and the UN could not persuade Syria that is in its interest to come clean about the Hariri murder and to stop meddling in Lebanon and supporting the Hizbullah, so how can Israel persuade Syria to force Khaled Mahaal to do anything? Manifestly if Khaled Mashaal is in Damascus, Syria thinks it is in its best interests to have him there, and if he ordered the kidnappers to keep Shalit, can anyone doubt that Bashar Assad approved the order? From the point of view of Assad, it is in his "best interest" to make as much trouble for Israel and for the United States as he can.
Could Israel use the stick? Israel could bomb Damascus, but this would do nothing but provoke another UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel, and the US would vote for it. It would also provoke Hezbullah attacks on Israel. Could Israel use the carrot? Israel could offer to negotiate for return of the Golan, but the US put a damper on earlier initiative for peace between Israel and Syria. Anyhow, Israel is not going to make a habit of giving up chunks of territory in return for hostages. We don't have that much territory.
Ross explains how to change Mr. Assad's mind:
The international community led by the United States must orchestrate pressures on Bashar Assad in Syria to make it clear that Syria has something to lose if Shalit is not released unharmed. King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia has more leverage than anyone else in dealing with Assad and the Saudis need to play a role in trying to resolve this crisis.
The international community, as noted, cannot really get Syria out of Lebanon, despite enormous efforts, and the international community will probably never apprehend the murderers of Rafiq Hariri as well as other Lebanese. The international community cannot stop the Hizbulla from harassing Israel. Saudi Arabia is not going to help either.
Then Ross really gets in stride:
For the longer term, there needs to be a strategy for altering the basic ground rules, and here Egypt and Jordan can play an important role. Collectively they need to work on Abbas to appoint an emergency government without Hamas or Fatah officials in it and to decide, finally, to create a professional security force that is led by a real commander who has his backing and blessing.
All the talk of restructuring never happened; a professional to run the force was never put in charge.
In current circumstances, Abbas - with Egyptian and Jordanian urging - might finally see that he has no choice but to act in this way. With international financing and backing, a new, professional security force could be constructed.
Even a force of 10,000 that acts professionally and is led by those who are committed to ensuring law and order would be sufficient - and the fact is that such a force could be constructed in time if Abbas acted decisively, picked the right leadership for it, entrusted them to fulfill this mandate and had the financing from the international community for it.
The United States has been training the Iraqi army for 3 years, and yet the Iraqi army does not have a single unit that is deemed worthy of independent action. The 130,000 or so US troops in Iraq and the 200,000 or so Iraqi security forces are virtually powerless against Iraqi chaos. How will anyone put together this force of 10,000 and why would it be effective?
Ross likewise has an unrealistic estimate of the United Nations. He writes:
If there is to be a more enduring basis for stability in Gaza when this crisis ends, the Security Council needs to adopt a resolution - much like it did after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon - that delegitimizes all such attacks.
The UN Security Council will never condemn Palestinian terror. The UN legitimized the Palestinian right to terror when it gave the PLO observers status and granted that the Palestinians had the right of "resistance" in General Assembly resolutions 3236 and 3237 of 1974. At the time, the PLO refused to recognize UN Security Council Resolution 242, and was engaged in terror operations. The right of "resistance" could only be construed as approval of terror, and the recognition of the PLO could only be construed as recognition that its goal of wiping out Israel was legitimate.
Indeed, if the UN were reasonable, and if Bashar Assad were reasonable, and if a 10,000 man security force could be created, and if that force were sufficient for stopping terrorism, Ross's ideas would have merit. Unfortunately, none of those assumptions are true.
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