How the European Union Failed to Keep the Peace in Gaza

As Hamas returns to attacking Israeli civilians with rockets and kite- and balloon-born explosives, Gerald Steinberg revisits the role played by the European Union Border Assistance Monitors (EUBAM), a peacekeeping force deployed to Gaza after Israel’s 2005 withdrawal. Stationed at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Strip, EUBAM’s mission was to supervise the Palestinian Authority (PA) border police and ensure that weapons and other contraband, as well as criminals and terrorists, didn’t enter Gaza. The force’s poor performance hasn’t stopped the Europeans from urging Jerusalem to make further territorial concessions:

From the beginning, this EU monitoring presence . . . demonstrated the chasm between high-minded talk and the reality of conflict and terrorism on the ground. . . . Weapons smuggling [into Gaza] continued, and on December 30, 2005, a few weeks after their initial deployment, EUBAM monitors fled Rafah to the safety of an Israeli military base when Palestinian police officers stormed the crossing, in what was described for media and diplomatic consumption as a “protest demonstration.”

Three months later, the monitors fled once again following a wave of foreigner kidnappings in Gaza. The EUBAM team returned, but with no actual monitoring, and when attacks from Gaza . . . escalated, the EU officials were bystanders.

The force hasn’t operated at all since the Hamas takeover of the Strip in 2007, although the crossing remains open. Steinberg adds:

In European political folklore, EUBAM’s failure, like everything else connected to the Palestinians, is blamed on Israel. . . . In reality, while the EU wanted credit for having an active role, they did not want the accompanying responsibility. The monitors moved to a hotel in Ashkelon and then an office in Ramat Gan, where, in theory, they remain on standby, thirteen years later, “maintaining readiness to redeploy to the Rafah Crossing Point once the political and security situation allows within short notice.”

This history is part of the EU’s legacy and should be recalled whenever officials such as Josep Borrell, vice-president in charge of foreign policy, lecture Israelis on how to make peace and help the people of Gaza.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Gaza withdrawal, Hamas, Peacekeepers

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood