The appearance and popularity of the idea of separation (actually various ideas of separation) are a direct result of both the violence of the past two years and the general belief that there is no chance for negotiations in the foreseeable future. It is probably safe to say that most Israelis have despaired of negotiations because they believe "there is no partner" for talks, at least where Arafat and the present Palestinian leadership are concerned. Yet even if Arafat and the entire Palestinian Authority were to disappear, and an alternative, legitimate Palestinian leadership were to emerge that had a mandate to negotiate with Israel, it is hard to conceive of Sharon negotiating a final peace accord. Thus, whatever the source (Sharon or Arafat) for the present pessimism over the possibility of negotiations, the public fear and psychological longing for an end to terror attacks has led to the interest in unilateral action, in particular some form of separation.

The various proposals and types of separation are described elsewhere in this issue, but virtually none present a real element of hope. There would be some positive effect were the separation line actually to be along the Green Line (the 1967 borders), but few if any of the plans appear to propose this. Arbitrarily placing a border somewhere between the two peoples, without consulting the Palestinians or negotiating land exchanges would solve little, and create further problematic facts on the ground. More importantly, any form of separation that left the IDF and large numbers of settlers in the Occupied Territories would merely deepen the occupation, creating still more motivation for attacks against Israelis, strengthening the myth of "no partner" and weakening still further the possibility of a future peace accord to end the conflict.

Not With the Likud in Power

The only "separation" that would hold some promise would be a total withdrawal to the 1967 lines, though of course it would be even better to withdraw in the context of an agreement, with all the necessary territorial adjustments, security arrangements, refugee and holy sites agreements, water and economic accords, etc. But this is not going to happen with a Likud government in power in Israel.

Therefore, we strive to replace the government in Israel with one that better reflects the public's willingness for a two-state solution, and we continue to struggle to restrain the Sharon government's abusive use of force, and press for the dismantling of settlements, Israeli withdrawal and the like. But we are also compelled to find a way to provide security without deepening the occupation or weakening the chance for a negotiated settlement.

An International Observer Force

There are some possible international solutions, though from the outset it must be said that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to realize them while Sharon is in power. The minimum demand of the Palestinians, as well as the Mitchell Committee Recommendations, the Tenet Plan, and the most recent Security Council resolution (not vetoed by the US) is the withdrawal of the IDF to the positions held before the outbreak of the intifada, namely the lines of September 28, 2000. Since the IDF has reoccupied most of the territories for "security" reasons, but also destroyed the PA's own security capabilities, some force must be placed in the territories to provide security - for both populations. Thus a first step toward restoring stability would be the introduction of an international observers force. Such a force would have to be led by the US in order to have any chance of acceptance by Israel, but composed of the quartet (US, EU, Russia, UN) with its authority derived from the UN. It would probably be wise to call it a "mission" rather than a force, given Israel's sensitivities, but it would have to have at least some security function. However this function were defined, the very presence of such a force, so long demanded by the Palestinians themselves, would provide an incentive for the cessation of violence, if not an actual barrier to continued violence.

The Mission's Purpose

Initially the mission's purpose would be to restore stability, namely the prevention of terror attacks and the return of Palestinian life to a degree of normalcy, with the political goal of creating a situation in which negotiations could be resumed. At the very minimum, the mission would have the function of providing the necessary environment for Palestinian elections to take place, assuming that Sharon would continue to demand Palestinian democratization as another precondition for negotiations. (Of course, Sharon's definition of Palestinian democratization may not coincide with the Palestinians' wish for free elections, that is, the right to elect whomever they want.) Certainly it can be argued that democratization does include elections (Bush has demanded as much), and elections cannot, at least by US standards, be conducted in the presence of the army. Moreover, US standards of democracy demand freedom of movement and association for the purpose of electioneering. And it would clearly help the moderate elements of the Palestinian body politic to gain support against the radical Islamists were daily life in the territories to return to a semblance of social and economic order. The withdrawal of the IDF to the September 28 lines and the prospect of resumed negotiations would certainly be helpful in this regard. Indeed, it has been suggested by one senior US official that a US-led permanent mission be entrusted not only with security tasks but also with political, economic and social matters in order to restore both stability and hope to the population.

All this could be achieved without an international force, were Israel willing to withdraw to the September 28 lines. But it is Israel that demands security guarantees - security guarantees that the PA cannot provide on its own, if at all. Thus minimally an international observer force could be introduced in the areas evacuated by the IDF to the pre-intifada lines for the purpose of the elections. Following such a step, which would constitute a mini-separation, this force or mission could be expanded and take up positions in additional areas from which the IDF were to withdraw in the course of negotiations (assuming some of the promised withdrawals from the Oslo era, including those promised by Netanyahu, were implemented).

An International Trusteeship

With the expansion of the evacuated areas, another possibility arises for international intervention. There has been talk in the US and in some circles in Israel about a mandate or trusteeship for the Occupied Territories. In other words, instead of the gradual or partial approach outlined above for an observers mission or force, the territories would be under the authority not of Israel or the Palestinians but some international body. This international party would be responsible for both the administration and the security of all the inhabitants of the territories. Under such an arrangement, those settlers who wished would presumably remain until the final status of the territories were negotiated. (Theoretically, the government should assist those who prefer to leave, having assisted them to go there in the first place.) But the IDF would be replaced by an international force or internationally supervised force (which might consist of Israelis and Palestinians).

Popular Demand for Separation

One may assume that the Palestinians would agree to such an arrangement only if it carried a very limited timetable leading to their full independence. It is far more difficult to assume that Israel would agree to such an arrangement at all. Yet, there are a number of factors that point to such a solution. There is the popular demand for separation. There is the failure of the reoccupation to restore security for Israelis. There is, possibly, the reluctance on the part of some senior IDF officers to have Israel responsible for security in all of the Occupied Territories. There is the economic as well as political problem of maintaining the reoccupation. Indeed, there are all the reasons provided elsewhere in this issue in favor of separation, without, however, the negative aspects of maintaining the occupation and foregoing negotiations.

There are undoubtedly many questions that must be answered regarding a trusteeship or even a more limited international force/mission. The matter of East Jerusalem and exact locations for international observers, the legal aspects and limits of their authority, their security capabilities, and numerous other more technical matters must be addressed. But these ideas probably raise no more questions than those raised with regard to unilateral separation. Indeed, the international element need not conflict with the idea of separation, provided the type of separation intended is one that removes the IDF and opens the way for negotiations without prejudicing the outcome or deepening the occupation. Inconceivable that the Sharon government would agree to such proposals even in the case of an US president willing to press it to agree? Probably no more inconceivable than the Sharon government agreeing to unilaterally disband settlements and separate at the Green Line.