In recent days and weeks, some people were entertaining the idea of having NATO patrol the Palestinian territories as part of a comprehensive peace deal between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The reemergence of this idea was partially based on the assumption that General Jim Jones, Obama’s new National Security Advisor, favors it. Another Obama advisor, Samantha Power, has hinted in the past that such force might be the way to go.
Of course, Israel was never enthusiastic about the possibility of having an international force in charge of its defense–and the inability of such force to control Hezbollah in Lebanon did not make it more appealing. So for Israel it was always a resounding no:
NATO is a very bad idea,” the officer said. “No other country in the world has successfully dealt with terror like Israel has. There is a need for continuous combat; NATO will not want to endanger its soldiers on behalf of Israeli citizens.
Nevertheless, this bad idea refuses to die. Israel’s reluctance was often interpreted by proponents as the instinctive negativity of a country that isn’t yet ready for the real compromises needed for real peace.
But hopefully, the last word on this matter, at least for a while, was heard today. Another resounding no–but this time people might actually listen, because it comes from NATO:
“NATO is not a player in this matter. I believe NATO has no mandate to operate on the Israeli-Palestinian issue unless an agreement is reached, unless there is a United Nations Security Council resolution, and unless the region’s countries, headed by Israel of course, ask for NATO presence in order to secure peace.
“If these conditions are met, I believe NATO will hold serious discussion,” said [NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop] Scheffer, addressing the idea to station a NATO force in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.
So, it is a no for now, and “discussion” later. Fortunately (but only in this case), NATO discussions tend to be a very long process.