On Wednesday evening Israeli troops escorted by Shin Bet agents once again entered the Jenin refugee camp to arrest a suspect believed to be engaged in terror activities. The incursion ended with one dead Palestinian youth and ten others wounded. The same thing happened the following day in Qalqilya. Two more serious blows to the chances of peace between Israel and Palestine.
The most fundamental aspect of any future Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is going to be the security arrangements between the sides. The Oslo peace process completely collapsed because after agreeing that all disputes would be resolved at the table violence continued to be used as a tactic for scoring points and many Israelis and Palestinians paid with their lives. The security coordination that was established with the Oslo agreements was based on the rationale that Yasser Arafat and his security forces would fight terrorism as Israel withdrew from territories that would become the Palestinian state. Yet as a result of Palestinian violence and in need to demonstrate results to the Israeli public, Israel stopped withdrawing from territories and the Palestinian security forces felt that they were fighting against their own people to preserve the ever growing settlement enterprise and the occupation.
As a result of the failures of Oslo, now when the parties negotiate there is absolutely no basis for trust between them making negotiations almost impossible. That must change. Trust cannot be developed by artificial confidence building measures. The loss of trust and confidence emanates primarily from the failure of the parties to implement the obligations that they took upon themselves in the six signed Oslo agreements. Trust can only be rebuilt by reversing that process. The current round of negotiations cannot succeed unless the parties begin to engage in new behaviors that demonstrate trust and the most crucial field in which is must be done is security.
Security for Israel and Palestine cannot be provided by third party troops. No American soldiers or NATO contingent can provide better security than the parties themselves. Why should a soldier from Ohio be willing to risk his life for Israeli-Palestinian peace? If the security of peace is not provided by Israelis and Palestinians together, there will be no real peace.
Here is what needs to happen – and now! Area by area Israel must cease its incursions into the Palestinian areas. Instead Israel should provide the Palestinian security forces with the intelligence information that it acts on arresting suspects of terrorism activities. The Palestinian security forces must apprehend the suspect, interrogate, investigate and determine if the intelligence information is credible. If yes, the Palestinian legal system must indict, convict and incarcerate the accused and convicted offenders. This process must be carried out with the monitoring of credible and trained third party monitors and verifiers of implementation. Palestinian security forces have been trained by the US military over the past years. The international community has spent hundreds of millions of developing the Palestinian court systems and the rule of law in Palestine. The Palestinians have an interest in agreeing to this proposal because it will end the Israeli incursions into their territories and both Israel and Palestine have a need to determine now whether or not peace is really possible.
If this system works, Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation will be capable of providing real security throughout the Palestinian state and along the sensitive Jordan Valley as well. Israel will be able to trust the Palestinians in countering terrorism. The Palestinians will be able to allow for continued Israeli presence in joint patrols along the Jordan River for some years after Israeli withdrawal from the area. The security cooperation could even extend into joint command of Israeli surveillance drones over the Jordan valley and the other electronic means of monitoring the security of the eastern border.
It is essential that these processes of deep and genuine security cooperation begin now. It will end the continued killing and wounding of Palestinians by Israeli troops. It will determine whether or not real security can be established and trusted prior to additional Israeli withdrawals. And it will establish a robust and credible third party monitoring and verification mechanism that was badly absent during the years of Oslo.
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.