More than two years ago, the Palestine-Israel Journal
devoted a special issue to the role of the international community,
which attempted to define the roles of the significant
international players and determine possible models for
intervention. In the interim the situation has deteriorated even
further. The American administration opted to disconnect itself
from real and meaningful involvement; Israel preferred a unilateral
strategy by disengaging from the Gaza Strip and the northern West
Bank; and the Palestinian electorate favored the religious Hamas
over the secular political leadership [Fateh], which spiraled into
an explosive internal conflict.
The international and regional arenas have undergone major changes
that have left an impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Among
those changes we can identify the instability in Iraq,
characterized by deep divisions between Sunnis and Shiites and
daily insurgencies and terror attacks; the nuclearization of Iran;
and the war in Lebanon, followed by political instability.
Time is working against both sides, and it is well understood that
the Israeli-Palestinian theater is not just another local conflict.
The entire region seems doomed to instability, which could
adversely affect the peace of the world.
It is almost the last moment for the international community, led
by the U.S., to re-intervene - but this time more determinedly and
creatively. The international experience regarding peace support
operations (PSOs) has developed dramatically in the last five
years. The most recent initiative implemented in the Lebanese
theater is an important precedent.
For the first time, the government of Israel accepted the idea of
deploying a peacekeeping force with such a broad mandate and led by
leading European countries such as France, Italy, Germany and
Spain. If UNIFIL II succeeds in its mission in South Lebanon, even
partially, it will become an incentive for Israel and the
international community (including an organization like NATO) to
consider seriously meaningful intervention in the
At the same time, we have to remember that nobody can substitute
for the parties in conflict - the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Without their political will, nothing will be achieved. One of the
unique characteristics of this conflict is its imbalance and
asymmetry. It is a conflict between Israel, a state entity, and the
Palestinians, a non-state entity. It is a conflict between a
well-organized and economically developed country and a society in
development - between an occupying force with a much superior
military power and an occupied society.
In addition to this asymmetry, any attempt to deal seriously with
the conflict has to take into account another characteristic of the
conflict: the multi-level nature of it. The Israeli-Palestinian
conflict occurs simultaneously on the interstate level (between
Israel and Palestine) and on the intrastate level (between Hamas
and Fateh inside the Palestinian territories). Therefore,
stabilizing the conflict arena means stabilizing both interstate
and intrastate arenas. There are also the interlocking regional
factors - the influence of the Hamas diaspora in Jordan and Syria
on the local Hamas.
Stabilizing the interstate arena requires a robust PSO with central
state-building and peace-building components. By rehabilitating the
Palestinian economy and institutions and bringing the Palestinian
Authority as close as possible to a state entity, two main
accomplishments will be achieved: 1) ending, or minimizing, the
damages of the internal conflict and improving quality of
Palestinian daily life; 2) minimizing the asymmetric dimension of
the interstate conflict and bridging better the fundamental gaps
between state and non-state entities.
PSOs of this kind require the consent of both parties and no less
important, well-established and organized cooperation by the
international community. The Americans should be more deeply and
more seriously involved, and they must improve cooperation with the
Quartet and some other important international and regional
In this special issue, we have tried to reflect on the causes of
the failure of the international community to intervene in the
conflict, and to attempt to find out how the world community can go
about achieving a successful involvement. Although the analyses
differ and different explanations and recommendations are presented
by various authors, there is one thing in common; all the authors
believe that both sides cannot manage the conflict by themselves
and the international community's intervention is urgently
We hope that this issue will be another important step towards
ending violence and breaking the political impasse.