Israel’s agreement to some type of international force in Gaza after the fighting stops could create a precedent for demands for an international force in the West Bank as well, according to a Foreign Ministry document obtained by The Jerusalem Post.
The seven-page paper, written by the ministry’s legal department, presents alternative models for the establishment of an international presence or mechanism in the Gaza Strip for the “day after” the fighting ends.
The idea of a multinational force in the West Bank has been raised over the years by the Palestinians and others as a possible solution to Israel’s security concerns if it withdraws from the area. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has consistently opposed the proposals.
The ministry drew up the paper following Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s call in the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday to bring a “UN mandate” to Gaza.
The use of the word “mandate” brought to mind connotations of the old League of Nation mandates, the type that gave control of Palestine to the British in 1923. Those types of mandates, according to the paper, are anachronistic and no longer relevant.
Rather, what is relevant today are various models used for the placement of international forces or international missions – which are granted various degrees of responsibility and authority – in conflict regions around the world.
The paper documented the legal foundations under which such an international force or mission would be set up, citing a number of possibilities.
One option would be a binding Security Council resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter that would give an international force enforcement authority and the ability to use force beyond just self-defense purposes to carry out its designated mission. In the case of Gaza, this would necessitate the agreement of the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Israel and the tacit approval of Hamas.
Under this model, the responsibilities given to the force would likely be to locate and neutralize weapons, as well as to man the border crossings to impound weaponry and determine who can and cannot pass through.
Examples of these types of forces include the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali and the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor.
Another model would be under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, where a force would be established that would not have enforcement authority, and would be primarily concerned with supervisory or reportorial roles.
The duties of this type of force would include reporting on ceasefire violations, efforts at demilitarization, supervising rehabilitation of Gaza, reporting on terrorist activity, overseeing humanitarian assistance and institution building.
There are a number of examples of this type of force in the region, such as UNIFIL, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon; UNDOF, the UN Disengagement Observer Force on the Golan: and UNFICYP, the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus.
Another option is creating a framework outside the UN and agreed upon by the parties. The two examples of this type of arrangement are also taken from the region, the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai established as part of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace agreement, and TIPH, the Temporary International Presence in Hebron.
Before deciding which model would be preferable, the paper said that in addition to concern about the precedent such a force would set regarding the West Bank, several other factors needed to be considered.
For example, Israel would need to take into consideration the degree to which the placement of an international mission of any kind in Gaza would influence or limit the IDF’s freedom of action.
Such a force would likely give Hamas a degree of legitimacy and recognition from the international community and even from Israel.
This would especially be true the more the placement of the international force would be dependent on some kind of agreement with Hamas, and if its effectiveness would necessitate some kind of daily contact with the organization.
And, finally, there is always the danger of friction between Israel and the countries that would take part in such a mission. The role of Egypt in the mission – likely an important one when discussing the opening of the Rafah crossing to Sinai and coordination with the force – would necessitate Egypt’s agreement and would likely affect Jerusalem’s relations with Cairo.