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Monday, June 16, 2003

A Bad Idea Whose Time Is Coming

The NYTimes reviews the history of Presidential peace-making in the Middle East, and drops this tid-bit on us:

Mr. Indyk, [a Middle East negotiator under President Bill Clinton] who is now head of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, has suggested making the West Bank and Gaza an international trusteeship, with American-led troops in charge of security, but the idea has not taken root among Mr. Bush and his aides.

You don't say? Our support of Israel is a main source of Arab anger with us; if the US took over the policing of Palestine, would that anger go up, or down?

After I got over my shock and awe, however, I figured that this is a chap who knows the area and might simply be identifying the least bad of a bunch of bad choices, sort of like I do when my kids drag me to McDonalds. Here is the article where he suggests this idea, and he seems to be well aware of the problems:

The only catch is that it will require the United States and its allies to confront Palestinian terrorist organizations, exposing U.S. troops to the suicide bombers while they engage directly in the kind of military actions in Palestinian cities and refugee camps that have earned Israel international opprobrium. But the president's rhetorical commitment to personal engagement in the radical transformation of Palestine could combine with a further descent into violent chaos there to produce circumstances that require a much deeper engagement. Breathtaking visions of nation-building in the Holy Land can have unintended consequences.

Well, he is not a wild-eyed optimist, at least.

So, can we safely ignore this idea? By seemingly odd coincidence, Sen. Lugar seems to be beating a similar drum:

In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said American forces might be part of an international force to help stop attacks by Hamas, the main group behind a campaign of suicide bombings against Israelis, and other groups.

An international force? This only gets better:

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Paris would discuss with the European Union the possibility of sending peacekeeping forces to halt Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed.

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar proposed US forces be sent, with a view to halting militants. "Clearly Hamas is right in the gunsights," the Republican lawmaker told Fox News Sunday.

But Israel has ruled out the suggestion of sending foreign peacekeepers to the occupied territories, first put forward by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan more than three years ago, and repeated by him last week.

Lots of talk about this. And I see that Matt Y is not thrilled either.

UPDATE: One of the commenters at M. Yglesias provides this link to a more current, more complete presentation of Mr. Indyk's idea for a trusteeship.

Pretty subtle. Right there on the cover of "Foreign Affairs", May/June 2003, "A Trusteeship For Palestine?". I daresay this idea is gaining currency.

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