Israel doesn’t trust Arafat and doesn’t believe that Arafat has made the decision to fight terrorism. Arafat no longer has any words that are capable of convincing Israel to believe his statements that he wants peace. Israel demands actions not statements. Israel has submitted to Arafat through the Americans a list of names of individuals that it demands be arrested and placed in prisons without revolving doors. It now seems that Arafat has begun arresting those people but how can Israel verify that they are in reality being arrested and in light of past experience, how can Israel believe that they will stay behind bars?
Arafat has explained to the world that he suspects that Israel wants him to arrest all of those “most wanted people” so that once they are all rounded up, Israel will bomb the prisons and thereby kill them all in one shot. Obviously, Arafat cannot lend his hand to this and therefore, according to his explanations, cannot implement the arrests according to the demands and the expectations of Israel and of the Americans.
It seems that the best solution to meet the needs and demands of both sides of Israel to verify the arrests and imprisonment of the wanted men, and of Arafat to guarantee that Israel will not bomb the prisons, is the agreement of both sides to bring American, Canadian and EU observers to the territories. Israel is afraid of the internationalization of the conflict. Israel claims that American, Canadian and EU observers will limit Israel’s ability to fight terrorism. Israel declares that American, Canadian and EU observers will not prevent the terrorists from hitting Israel but they will prevent Israel from freely attacking the Palestinians because the American, Canadian and EU observers will serve as a buffer between the sides and will effectively provide a shield in front of the terrorists. Israel’s claims are understandable and perhaps acceptable from its perspective, but they don’t eliminate the possibility to gain the benefits of American, Canadian and EU observers in the territories.
Every force of observers or peacekeepers in the world is organized and functions with a specific and explicit mandate. In this case the mandate should be the verification of arrests, trial and imprisonment of suspects by the Palestinian Authority. The placement of the observers could be limited to the prisons of the Palestinian Authority. The observers would keep a daily record of names of those in the prisons. Because of the physical placement of American, Canadian and EU observers in the prisons, Arafat will receive guarantees that Israel will not bomb the prisons.
It is possible to assure that the American, Canadian and EU observers will not be military personnel and that they will not carry arms and that they will not have any functions or responsibilities outside of the prisons. In this way Israel will assured that they will not be serving as a shield in front of suspected terrorists and preventing Israel from waging its war against terrorism.
Both sides benefit from this arrangement in meeting the needs and demands of both sides. Israel gets verification of the arrests, trial and imprisonment of suspected terrorists. Arafat gets guarantees against Israeli bombings of Palestinian prisons. Both sides gain significant American, Canadian and EU encouragement to implement the ceasefire. Perhaps this model of American, Canadian and EU observers can also serve both sides in guaranteeing the implementation of future agreements and arrangements between them.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.
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