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The UN to Tony Blair’s Rescue

Can resolving Arab-Israeli issues present a compromise for a UN resolution?

March 18, 2003

Can resolving Arab-Israeli issues present a compromise for a UN resolution?

Perhaps the hour is too late. But it might still be worthwhile looking at a different approach to securing UN Security Council enforcement of its own resolutions. Rather than focusing just on Iraq, why not acknowledge the link between the Iraqi situation and the Israel-Palestine problem?

If the United States wants a UN resolution authorizing an invasion of Iraq, let them have it — provided the United States uses its leverage to ensure compliance with another, older UN resolution.

That resolution is number 242. It dates from November of 1967 — after Israel's defeat of three Arab countries in the six-day war.

The Bush Administration could possibly win UN Security Council approval this very week of a resolution authorizing immediate force to disarm Iraq — and even worldwide approval (perhaps including France). Here is the text of a resolution that would do the trick.

The Security Council,

Expressing its continuing concern with the threat to Middle East security posed by the present government of Iraq given its refusal to disarm in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1441,

Emphasizing that action to disarm Iraq would provoke worldwide violence toward the people of the disarming parties without a resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict,

1. Authorizes immediate use of force to disarm the government of Iraq unless UN inspectors declare that government fully disarmed or fully cooperative with disarmament efforts upon:

    • Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the 1967 conflict;

    • Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;

2. Affirms further that:

    • Satisfaction of other terms of Security Council Resolution 242, including settlement of the refugee problem, are not required for this authorization;

    • An agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on land swaps like those discussed January 21-27, 2001 in Taba would provide evidence of satisfaction of the above terms.

What is resolution 242? It was the UN's definitive statement on the Israel/Palestine situation after Israel's lighting military victory dropped large swaths of Arab lands in Israel's lap.

The Resolution 242 was a compromise — agreed upon by the United States — to try to prod the parties towards the "land for peace" settlement that has been at the heart of every potential solution dreamed up since then.

This new proposed resolution unequivocally authorizes immediate force to disarm Saddam. There is only one condition: an Israeli-Palestinian peace-for-de-occupation agreement.

The resolution itself would sail through the Security Council as quickly as diplomats could run to the meeting room. For most members of the United Nations, letting the superpower call Saddam to account would be a small price to pay to induce that superpower to effect an Israeli-Palestinian resolution.

It might seem that obtaining such an agreement on a fast timetable, however, would be impossible. After all, many diplomats have spent decades with little to show for it. But now, the United States has a significant incentive to open up the situation.

From the point of view of the United States, it actually makes sense. An attack on Iraq will inflame anti-American hatred and terrorist recruitment throughout the Muslim world. Resolving the struggle over West Bank land will douse that hatred and cripple the recruitment.

For a U.S. administration prepared to exercise real leadership, it would take 25 hours. The President needs to make a telephone call.

The Israeli army would need to demarcate the kind of border proposed by former Israeli Prime Minister Barak in 2001.

A wall for Israeli security and staged withdrawal of illegal Israeli settlements deep inside the West Bank could follow.

To the contrary, such an agreement would deliver a deathblow to the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas. And in burying any hope for Palestinian refugees' return to their rich ancestral lands in Israel's Galilee, it extracts the most painful possible price for Palestinian extremists' cynical re-ignition of the intifada.

Most Israelis support land for peace without believing they can safely offer it. Coming from Israel, they believe, withdrawal is weakness.

But if forced by the United States, Israel can maintain its image of strength — and yet, walk away from an occupation that even the Israeli public wants to reject.

The Likud Party would suffer if it were forced to build a security fence because it could no longer trade West Bank land for votes.

Settlers in the 40 illegal trailer camps and other developments Prime Minister Sharon has built deep inside Palestinian territory and in others tolerated by his predecessors would have to relocate to a safer place.

Perhaps Prime Minister Sharon could console them by inviting them to become neighbors of his ranch in Israel's empty and beautiful Negev desert.

The objections do not wash. President Bush could make his phone call on Tuesday.

Israeli Defense Forces could start demarcating the 1967 border adjustments discussed in Taba that they have largely already surveyed on Wednesday.

As the Israelis start to move, the United States would enlist the anxious leaders of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to play a similar role with the Palestinian Authority.

Those leaders would provide cover for President Arafat's agreement on Thursday to a security wall — and reaffirmation of his recognition of Israel by Thursday. And if all that startling diplomatic activity did not shock Saddam into surrendering his VX, Sarin, Anthrax, missiles and whatever else — force would be authorized by Friday.

In January of 2001, the Palestinian Authority and Israel came very close to agreeing on a final set of borders — including Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank and a land swap. Approximately 80% of the West Bank settlers would be able to remain in place, but some land with the pre-1967 borders of Israel — with a large Arab population — would be transferred to the new State of Palestine. These talks never resulted in a final agreement, but many observers believed that the two sides got closer to an agreement at Taba than they had ever been before.