Jerusalem's Old City and the Temple Mount.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Will we soon be seeing the distinctive light blue helmets and berets of United Nations peacekeeping forces on the Temple Mount? If France has its way, the UN Security Council will accept a French motion and vote in favor of stationing “independent observers” on the site to “identify possible violations of the status quo.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear Sunday that he rejects the French proposal. But the UN, an institution not known for its impartiality when it comes to the Jewish state, might put pressure on Israel to accept a UN Security Council decision, if one is made.
The French and other nations apparently are under the impression that a UN peacekeeping force would succeed in calming tensions at a site that has been the epicenter of Muslim Palestinian violence.
Apparently, the lessons of history have not been learned.
Of all the many failures of the UN over the seven decades since it was established, UN peacekeeping forces stand out for special distinction as horribly inept and corrupt.
In the run-up to the Six Day War, UN Emergency Forces stationed along the border between Israel and Egypt were useless in preventing Egyptian aggression that led to the outbreak of war. The Egyptians simply told the UNEF to evacuate the area and UN Secretary-General U Thant facilitated.
UN peacekeeping forces on Israel’s northern border have hardly fared better. Called the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, this mission, first put in place back in 1978, is not particularly interim. UNIFIL was greatly expanded in the wake of the 2006 Second Lebanon War. It has an annual budget of nearly $500 million and employs more than 10,000 troops and nearly 1,000 civilian staff.
Under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, UNIFIL was charged with preventing Hezbollah from rearming and ensuring that southern Lebanon would be “an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons” apart from the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL. But UNIFIL has failed colossally. Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah has been smuggling into Lebanon more advance weapons, including the Russian-made SS-N-26 Yakhont anti-ship missile.
And the failures of UN peacekeeping missions are not restricted to matters related to Israel. In 1994, in Rwanda, a UN Assistance Mission knew about the impending genocide.
But UN peacekeepers failed to stop Hutus from going on a months-long rampage that ended with the murder of nearly a million of the Tutsi minority.
In 1995, at Srebrenica, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men were summarily executed, most by Serbian shooting squads. And this happened after the town had been declared a “safe zone” and the UN had sent a Dutch protection force precisely to prevent such an atrocity. A photo of the Dutch commander drinking a toast with General Ratko Mladic, the Serb commander, demolished beyond repair the UN’s reputation.
More recent outrages include the revelation in 2005 that UN peacekeepers were pimping and raping young women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo instead of protecting them from sex traffickers. Similar allegations have been raised against UN forces deployed in Cambodia, Bosnia and Haiti.
Are these the “peacekeepers” the French want to entrust with guarding a site considered by devout Jews to be the single most holy place in the entire world and which is hallowed by Muslims as well? Do the French truly believe that UN peacekeeping forces with such a horrendous track record will succeed in calming the tensions, or do the French have another agenda? As Netanyahu pointed out in his rejection of the French proposal, no mention is made of the lies and incitement spouted by Palestinian Authority officials that Israel is attempting to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.
Indeed, the French motion seems less to do with restoring security on the Temple Mount and more to do with taking advantage of the recent conflict to “internationalize the holy sites” in a bid to cave in to Muslim pressure to force Israel to relinquish control over the Temple Mount.
Introducing an inept, potentially corrupt UN peacekeeping force will only exacerbate an already volatile situation.
The real problem on the Temple Mount is not a lack of law enforcement capability, it is irresponsible Palestinian incitement. The French would put their time to better use if they persuaded Palestinian leaders to stop spreading lies and promoting conflict.