Monday, April 30, 2007

An Offer for Peace: Disarming Hamas and Fatah

By Liam Bailey

Fresh hope for Middle East Peace lies in the revitalization of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, offering Israel normalized relations with all Arab (League) states.

In return: Israel is expected to withdraw from and create a Palestinian state on the territory taken in the 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and offer "a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem."

Through the years both populations have come to miss-trust the other side. Most Israelis will not accept their government sacrificing part of their sacred Jerusalem without firm guarantees that the violence from the Palestinians, most notably, the rocket fire will end. Not to mention the substantial settler movement within Israel who balk at the prospect of giving one inch of land, even for peace.

Outsiders will say that the above is a small price to pay for peace -- but why should Israelis pay, for something that their military's reputation for disproportionate retaliations and collective punishment has practically gained already?

The Arabs need to offer more for Israel to accept the initiative -- disarmament could well be the answer.

Currently, the biggest threat to Israel comes from within the Palestinian territories. I believe U.N. peacekeepers could verify the decommissioning of, for arguments sake, 10% of Hamas and Fatah's arms for every 10% of land returned, both processes completing on an agreed date. After Hamas and Fatah were disarmed and the withdrawal was complete, the U.N. force could maintain the peace from parties outside the agreement, such as Islamic Jihad, to allow the creation of the new Palestinian state.

Setting up P.A. police and security forces when Israel has gained trust in the unity government's commitment to the agreement would be the U.N forces' next task.

The new P.A. force's first job: disarming all Palestinians, starting with Islamic Jihad. In an independent Palestinian state, free from Israeli forces, settlements, controls and restrictions, I can't see why anyone would refuse to give their trust and their arms to the new state's security forces.

The issue the initiative fails to deal with, the peacekeepers could: ensuring the Israeli security wall is torn down after a suitable period of Israeli security.

Israel and the Arab League both seek to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons and dominating the region, suddenly peace may not be so distasteful to governments on both sides. The Arabs offering disarmament in conjunction with Israel meeting its commitments would allow Israel to sell peace to its understandably cautious population.

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