July 26, 2014

In Blog





Israel looks to Lebanon model for Gaza endgame

Doubting a cease-fire can be reached through Egypt’s mediation, Israeli officials consider turning to UN Security Council.

By Barak Ravid | Jul. 23, 2014 | 1:33 AM
Two weeks into the war in Gaza no ceasefire is yet on the horizon. The diplomatic shuttling between representatives of the United States, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Norway and the UN Secretary General, as well as some European Union countries, has so far not yielded any outline for stopping the fighting. In fact, the opposite is true: Too many chefs have spoiled all the broths prepared so far.
Israel is in a bind. Hamas is not interested in a ceasefire. Monday’s meeting in Doha between Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshal and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ended in failure. Meshal is in total euphoria since the hostilities in Gaza began. The more he is wooed, the more encouraged he becomes to harden his positions. He wasn’t flustered at the meeting and rejected all of Abbas’s proposals.
More and more cabinet ministers and senior officials are becoming convinced that the pattern we were accustomed to on previous occasions, whereby Hamas and Israel deal with each other indirectly through Egypt, producing some kind of ceasefire agreement, won’t work this time. A different exit strategy needs to be found, one that Hamas will find difficult to veto.
One idea making the rounds in the defense establishment, the foreign ministry and among experts in think tanks with direct links to the Prime Minister’s and Defense Minister’s bureaus is to recreate the exit plan from the second Lebanon War. According to this idea, Israel, in coordination with the US and other allies, as well as with Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League, will propose a Security Council Resolution, similar to Resolution number 1701 which ended that war in 2006.
Beyond a ceasefire, that resolution was intended to advance Israel’s diplomatic objectives such as the strengthening of Lebanon’s government’s hold on its southern district, the international isolation of Hezbollah, the demilitarization of southern Lebanon from rockets and heavy weaponry and the stationing of international observers on the border. Resolution 1701 was a continuation of the earlier Resolution 1559, which called for the disarming of Hezbollah and other armed militias in Lebanon.
The same principles could serve Israel’s diplomatic goals in the days following the fighting in Gaza. A UN resolution to end the hostilities should include the following principles:
a) A declaration that the lawful government in Gaza is that of the Palestinian Authority under President Abbas. Implicitly, this will oblige Israel to work with the Palestinian unity government.
b) A redeployment of Palestinian Authority forces along Gaza’s borders and at border crossings into Israel and Egypt.
c) Erection of a mechanism that will ensure demilitarization of the Gaza Strip from rockets, tunnels and heavy weapons, along with the sending of UN inspectors to different locations throughout the Strip. These inspectors will report back to the Security Council every 3-6 months. Even if not a single rocket is dismantled, this problem will be brought to the forefront of world attention.
d) A meaningful change in Israel’s policies with regard to border crossings, particularly concerning the passage of people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank.
e) A lifting of the naval siege and the construction of a deep water harbor under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority and a strong international force.
f) The rehabilitation of Gaza’s economy and infrastructure under international supervision that will prevent the diversion of building materials to the construction of bunkers and tunnels by terrorist organizations.
Resolution 1701 which ended the second Lebanon war wasn’t perfect. Actually, Benjamin Netanyahu was one of its harshest critics. Many of its sections have not been implemented to this day, yet it gave Israel many diplomatic advantages while isolating Hezbollah.
A similar resolution with respect to Gaza will also not be fully implemented. Hamas will surely oppose it. However, given its current condition it will find it hard to object to it, particularly if it is backed by the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. This solution is far from perfect but all other options are worse.