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Jewish World Review August 8, 2002 / 30 Menachem-Av, 5762

Neill Lochery

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Teaching the 'Palestinians' to shoot straight | (UPI) With the demise of the proposal for an international conference to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, momentum is gathering for a new plan, sponsored by the United Nations and European Union, which if implemented would prove even more disastrous for peace prospects.

This proposal calls for thousands of international advisers to be sent to train the Palestinians in areas ranging from security to good governance. The as-yet-untitled plan enjoys the support of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, several European governments, and key figures in the State Department. Make no mistake, we are not talking here about a United Nations peacekeeping force, but rather something very new, and as explained below, extremely flawed.

Plans such as the latest are underpinned by the premise that the reason the Palestinian Authority failed was because of the technical failings of the 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords, not because of poor Palestinian leadership that did not come to terms with the two related prerequisites for success: the linkage of nationalist aspirations to economic and social improvement, and an acceptance of Israel not as a friend but a reality that could help rather than hinder the achievement of a Palestinian state.

The rationale of the new plan mirrors that of other recent efforts at regenerating the Oslo peace process, attempts which JWR's Daniel Pipes correctly likened to applying a sticky plaster to a mortal wound.

Ignoring for a moment the weakness of the rationale for the plan, its methodology is even more worrying. The self-confessed hardest decision that the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin ever had to take was not recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organzation --- or whether to shake Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's hand. It was agreeing to let the security services of the authority be armed.

Those who have read the Oslo Accords will have noted that the authority's policemen were to be lightly armed.

Predictably -- and yes, Rabin suspected this would happen -- the authority stockpiled weapons to such an extent that a survey suggested last year that there are now more arms per square meter in Gaza that almost anywhere else in the world.

Why does the authority need such high levels of arms? The authority's line is that they had to deal with groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad that opposed the Oslo Accords. History has taught us that this was pure fabrication, and that the reason was to prepare for a military confrontation with Israel.

Understanding this point is very important, and sadly it appears that neither the United Nations nor the European Union has yet reached a similar conclusion.

Both institutions turn a blind eye to this blatant violation of international accords. Instead this new plan calls for their security experts to train the authority's forces to make them more effective.

One wonders to be more effective at what, shooting Israelis?

Imagine the scene as Special Forces from European countries teach Palestinian security leaders about tactical warfare and how to patrol their streets.

In truth, the authority's security forces are already very good at their job. I have been impressed by the on-the-ground security cooperation between some senior Palestinian commanders and the Israeli army. Nobody likes talking about it, however, because the authority's security forces are viewed as traitors if the cooperation becomes too overt. The real problem lies with the Palestinian political leadership who misuse their security forces in the name of nationalism.

In terms of good governance, what would the advisers suggest? Both the U.N. and EU have their own critics in this area and it is doubtful that they could offer much in the way of enlightened advice.

Don't get caught with your fingers in the till.

Be careful not to exaggerate your expense claims too much, and remember any election can be fixed.

If I were Palestinian, I would find this part of the plan extremely condescending. Good governance needs time and cannot be imposed from the outside. The days of colonial rule in the Middle East are over, and the belief that concepts such as democracy, healthy civil society and effective state bureaucracies can be taught belongs to the age of Lawrence of Arabia, not to the 21st century.

The real concern, however, is that the plan must represent the best efforts of these political leaders. It is a damming indictment of both the U.N. and EU that they can do no better than this. It is, in effect, a shift from Plan A to Plan Z with no intermediate plans being tried.

To be sure, some will argue that the stationing of some form of international force in the Middle East is the only viable way out of the current impasse. This of course is nonsense. What is required at present is the transition of power away from the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority to the younger generation of Palestinian leaders, many of whom still live in exile in Europe and the United States.

Let the Palestinians put their own house in order. It may take longer but is a much less dangerous path than letting the outside world do it for them.

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Neill Lochery is director of the Centre for Israeli Studies at University College, London. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, UPI