There is a way forward for Israel and Palestine, but first the war must end

A secure and democratic way forward for Israel and Palestine

A far better framing is a plan that meets the security requirements of both Israel and Palestine…

For months the US has been raising the issue of the “day after” the war in Gaza and asking Israel for its plan on the kind of governance structure that should be put in place. The US frames it in terms of ensuring Hamas will not play a role and that Israel is secure. A far better framing is a plan that meets the security requirements of both Israel and Palestine and the governance needs of Gaza and all the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

This would form the essential foundation for the election of a Palestinian government that can then, with appropriate international and bilateral assistance, negotiate further agreements, including ultimately a “Permanent Status” agreement with Israel. That agreement would address all outstanding issues for a two-state solution in accordance with the guiding UN Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

Well, it so happens that the UN has an appropriate mechanism for just this purpose.

A UN Transitional Administration for Palestine (UNTAP)

Its mandate would be to provide interim governance and security throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Building on past UN transitional administrations, particularly the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), what is needed is a UN Transitional Administration for Palestine (UNTAP). Its mandate would be to provide interim governance and security throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) while building local capacity for self-governance, in preparation for free and fair elections which UNTAP would organize and carry out.

UNTAP would be supported by a militarily “robust” UN-authorized but not UN-led multinational security force — until military peacekeepers could deploy to UNTAP, with a similarly strong military mandate and capacity.

From UN transitional administration to UN assistance mission

Once the new Palestinian government is elected, a UN transitional administration would no longer be required and could be replaced by a multidimensional, militarily robust, UN peacekeeping operation, the purpose of which would be to provide governance and security assistance to the new Palestinian government as it prepares for, and enters into, negotiations with Israel on all outstanding issues — including illegal settlements, the status of Jerusalem and the right of return of refugees.

Why the UN?

Only the UN has the dedicated headquarters infrastructure and coordination capacity to backstop such a complex governance-building, humanitarian, and rehabilitation effort.

Further, this full range of institutional support, coordination capacity, and security assistance can only be triggered by Security Council authorization of a UN multidimensional peacekeeping mission in the form of a UN Transitional Administration.

The promise of UNTAP and its follow-on mission

UNTAP will deliver post-occupation security for both Israel and Palestine

The UNTAP model delivers on three fundamental elements: (1) post-occupation security for both Israel and Palestine; (2) a viable, democratic negotiating path to Palestinian self-determination; and (3) a new status quo where negotiation is the only way forward.

So long as its occupation and de facto annexation of the OPT continue, Israel has absolutely no incentive to negotiate for Palestinian self-determination. Ending the occupation, while providing security through the UNTAP model, has the opposite effect, with not only Palestine but Israel too needing to negotiate to meaningfully address all outstanding issues, not least the possibility of “land swaps” to avoid wholesale Israeli evacuation of the illegal settlements.

There is also a fourth benefit to the UNTAP model: it will help redress — through the Transitional Authority’s civilian and military components — the current extreme power imbalance between the two sides.

Israel’s ongoing illegal policies and practices in the OPT

What are the legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination…?” Request for ICJ Advisory Opinion

As we have mentioned in earlier blog posts here and here, the International Court of Justice is currently holding hearings in response to a request from the UN General Assembly for an Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

It is the prevailing view, acknowledged even by Israeli legal experts, that given the exceptionally long duration of an increasingly oppressive and brutal occupation, characterized by a range of illegal policies and practices under international law, including conduct that is tantamount to a de facto annexation of Palestinian territory, the ICJ may well find the occupation itself illegal, leading in turn to the decisions the Court will then make on the timeline and process by which this situation of illegality should be brought to an end.

The US argued in its oral submission to the Court that

it would not, as some participants suggest, be conducive to achievement of the established framework [for a two-state solution] to issue an opinion that calls for a unilateral, immediate and unconditional withdrawal by Israel that does not account for Israel’s legitimate security needs. – US oral submission at paragraph 25 [emphasis added]

A UN Transitional Administration in Palestine with a robust international military component would be the means by which this situation of rampant Israeli illegality — and utter insecurity for Palestinians — can be brought to an end, without compromising Israeli security or the negotiations on a viable two-state solution.

So how do we get from here to there?

A permanent ceasefire is the first step; there is no substitute for agreement of the parties

The very first step toward the establishment of UNTAP is a permanent ceasefire and return of hostages and, ideally, a commitment from Israel, Hamas, and Palestinian representatives from the rest of the OPT to negotiate a follow-on agreement for the governance of Gaza and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem (OPT).

Why would Israel ever agree? They won’t until the costs of not doing so become too high.

The problem is not a lack of means to pressure Israel but a manifest lack of willingness by the US and most of its Western allies to use these means.

This requirement for consent of the parties will lead most readers to immediately conclude that the UNTAP proposal is a non-starter from the outset since Israel will never agree to it. If we acknowledge that Israel is adamantly opposed to a two-state solution, then it should be clear there is NO path forward without systematic, meaningful pressure being exerted on Israel.

And the sooner this is acknowledged by Israel’s Western allies, the better.

There is a long and growing list of economic and legal measures that, if invoked, would begin to demonstrate to Israel that its continued occupation and vision of a Greater Israel are no longer sustainable.

The problem is not a lack of means to pressure Israel but a manifest lack of willingness by the US and most of its Western allies to use these means.

A viable pathway forward will buttress Western states’ resolve to use the economic and legal leverage they have in concrete support of a two-state solution.

This is the promise of the UNTAP model.

But the really important point is that states, especially Western states, will likely be far more willing to ratchet up meaningful pressure on Israel — particularly in the economic sphere — if they can see that it is in aid of a viable way forward for both Israel and Palestine to achieve a negotiated two-state solution.

This is the promise of the UNTAP model.

A viable way forward will also further energize the growing American lobby working to change American policy on Israel and Palestine so US actions start to conform with that country’s long-stated goal of a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

Full details to follow after our summer break

The above is a short outline of the proposal. There is much more to present, not least regarding the role of Hamas. We will flesh out the UNTAP model and its rationale in a series of posts, beginning in early September, after our summer recess.

Whither Canada?

As States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), we uphold that the Court, its officials and staff shall carry out their professional duties as international civil servants without intimidation. – Opening sentence of Joint Statement in support of the ICC

On 17 June 2024, Canada was one of 93 States Parties to the Rome Statute to join in a strong statement of support for the International Criminal Court, available HERE.

We commend Canada for this timely expression of support for the Court’s ongoing efforts to end impunity for heinous international crimes.

The priority now is a permanent ceasefire, to which Israel has yet to agree.

We need strong, principled actions from Canada, beginning with an explicit call on Israel to support a permanent ceasefire NOW.  

TO STOP THE GAZA WAR, CONTINUED DIRECT PRESSURE ON THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA FROM CANADIAN CITIZENS IS ESSENTIAL AND EFFECTIVE.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:  justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly:  melanie.joly@parl.gc.ca ; Parliamentary Secretary Rob Oliphant:  rob.oliphant@parl.gc.ca

Int’l Development Minister Ahmed Hussen:  ahmed.hussen@parl.gc.ca

Leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh:  Jagmeet.Singh@parl.gc.ca ;  NDP Foreign Affairs critic Heather McPherson: Heather.McPherson@parl.gc.ca

Leader of the Conservative Party Pierre Poilievre: pierre.poilievre@parl.gc.ca ; Conservative Foreign Affairs critic Michael Chong:  michael.chong@parl.gc.ca

Leader of the Bloc Quebecois Yves-François Blanchet: Yves-Francois.Blanchet@parl.gc.ca

Green Party Critic Elizabeth May: Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca

And find your local Member of Parliament HERE.

Photo credits: UNRWA/Gaza (Ashraf Amra);  UNICEF/Gaza (El Baba)

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