Global Policy Forum

An International Force in Gaza Is Long Overdue


By Cesar Chelala *

Daily Star - Lebanon
October 30, 2006

The unrelenting violence between Palestinians and the Israeli military makes imperative the formation of an international peacekeeping force to police the border between Israel and Gaza. Such a force could not only put a stop to the deadly attacks on civilians from both sides, but could also signal the start of wider agreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The establishment of such a force has been requested several times by Palestinian leaders in order to protect civilians from various acts of violence carried out by the Israeli military. Palestinians have reacted to Israeli military attacks with violent actions of their own, thus creating a vicious circle that needs to be broken once and for all if peace is to be attained between the two sides.

There have been several requests for the creation of such a force. During the October 2000 peace summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Palestinian negotiators demanded that the United Nations send a peacekeeping force to help put an end to the bloody conflict between Israeli troops and the Palestinians. But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak flatly rejected that proposal.

In 2002, recalling the "horrific" scene when Israeli forces invaded the Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank town of Jenin, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asked the Security Council to consider sending an armed multinational force to help end violence in the Occupied Territories. That proposal did not materialize and violence continued to claim innocent lives. The issue was again taken up in 2003, when Saudi Arabia requested an international peacekeeping force to maintain security in the territories, but that went unheeded as well.

With the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) now being beefed up in the wake of that country's war with Israel, the time is ripe for the formation of a similar force along the boundaries of the Palestinian territories. Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema recently stated that if the strengthening of UNIFIL proves successful, a similar international force could also be sent to Gaza. D'Alema is considered by many to have been the most important advocate of Italy's decision to send 3,000 soldiers to UNIFIL, making it the largest contributor to the mission.

In a recent interview with Israel's Haaretz newspaper, D'Alema said that he sees the formation of peacekeeping force for Palestinian areas taking place at the same time as other critical steps are taken. Among those steps would be the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and the formation of a Palestinian government that meets the criteria set by the international community for the lifting of a crippling embargo. Military solutions have repeatedly failed not only to solve the conflict, but even to improve conditions in a manner that could eventually lead to a solution. According to D'Alema, since both the American and Israeli approaches have failed, only international intervention can bring security to the region.

The Hamas leadership has shown a willingness to reach preliminary agreements with Israel based on the Muslim concept of hudna (truce). Israel, rather than insisting on a theoretical and unproductive formal recognition, should take advantage of this proposal to move forward on the road to peace.

The cruel isolation of the elected Palestinian government should end. The United States and the European Union should work on finding basic areas of agreement with the Palestinians. The most immediate need is for an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire. This could be a foundational agreement upon which future accords could be built. Following a reasonable period of cessation of hostilities, a gradual elimination of closures is necessary. That would facilitate humanitarian assistance and access to necessary healthcare for many Palestinians facing severe economic distress and medical distress.

The issue of an international force for Gaza is fraught with legal and practical difficulties. However, unless it is seriously considered and those difficulties properly addressed, innocent civilians from both sides will continue to lose their lives. As Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister, recently said, "the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will have to come from the international community or there will be no solution at all."

About the Author: Cesar Chelala, co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award for an article on human rights.

More Information on Security Council
More Information on UN Involvement
More General Articles on Israel, Palestine and the Occupied Territories
More Information on The "Peace Process"
More Information on Israel, Palestine and the Occupied Territories
More Information on Lebanon and Syria


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.