My Turn: Time for peacekeeping force in Middle East

Posted: Monday, May 13, 2002

As Israel is preparing to retaliate for the latest suicide bombing with a large-scale military response in the Gaza Strip, a U.N. peacekeeping force is needed to save innocent lives and homes, administer the creation of the state of Palestine and stabilize the region.

A U.N. peacekeeping force would prevent the death toll and destruction that occurred in Jenin in the West Bank. The April Israeli siege in Jenin destroyed hundreds of homes and killed an unknown number of people. International humanitarian groups have found evidence implicating Israel for war crimes, including forbidding International Red Cross access to the injured for two weeks and cutting off of all water, electricity and food deliveries. The United Nations could take action where the United States won't because of its political division evidenced by 96 senators supporting Israel's incursion into the West Bank despite President Bush's calls for Israel's withdrawal.

A U.N. peacekeeping force would allow access to international investigators that were refused by Israel and, allegedly, the United States. Addressing the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish American group, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon hinted heavily that the Bush administration had ultimately helped block the U.N. fact-finding mission assigned to investigate allegations of massacres. "I would like to thank the American administration and its leadership that helped us, understood us, and supported us to get out of this trap." The speech put the administration in an awkward situation by suggesting that the United States had acted privately to thwart a mission it supported in public (The Guardian, London, May 8). The article in the Juneau Empire on May 7 made no mention of the Sharon's comments about the United States' involvement in denying access to the U.N. fact-finding mission.

A U.N. peacekeeping force would implement the U.N.'s goal of ending the war, and creating a Palestinian state. The two warring factions are so enraged that all they can do is retaliate for each other's actions while losing sight of a peaceful solution. During his meeting with Bush, Sharon said that, "Creating a Palestinian state is premature" and hastened his return to Israel to prepare a military response to the bombing. Some Sharon critics say he won't talk about a Palestinian state because he wants more Israeli settlements built, which would facilitate his proclamations of expelling all 2 million Palestinians from the West Bank. Public Radio International reported (May 8) that Palestinian support for the Islamic militant group, Hamas, who Israel accuses for the latest bombing, is growing as a result of Israel's incursion into the West Bank. As Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."

A U.N. peacekeeping force would halt the illegal building of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory and return Palestine to its pre-1967 borders and thereby appease the Palestinians and halt the Palestinian intifada, (uprising). Thirty-four Israeli settlements have been built on Palestinian land since Sharon has been in power.

A U.N. peacekeeping force would appease Israel's Arab neighbors and grant greater security for the region. In his meeting with President Bush in Texas, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah said the United States might lose friends in the oil-rich Arab states unless the it takes a harder line against Israel's incursions. The Saudi peace initiative, which was unanimously supported by the Arab states, would grant full recognition of Israel by its Arab neighbors in exchange for Israel returning to pre-1967 borders and a sovereign Palestinian state.

It's time to throw negotiating out the window because numerous U.S. and Israeli administrations have failed while the death toll climbs and the risk of region-wide war grows. For the sake of saving innocent lives on both sides and creating peace in the region and improved U.S.-Arab relations, it's time for the U.N. to send an international peacekeeping force. This force would implement and enforce the U.N.-sanctioned solution to the conflict Israeli pullout of occupied territories, removal of Israeli settlements, formation of a sovereign Palestine next to sovereign Israel, and end the suicide bombings.

Please write letters to the United Nations and to Congress.

Michael Hekkers of Juneau is a concerned citizen who follows news through various media.

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