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Liberman in JPost: The unsuccessful history of ‘peacekeeping’ in our region

Published on: June 24, 2013

The following is an op-ed written by Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Avigdor Liberman in the Jerusalem Post:

In a speech at the opening of Herut’s National Council in October 1948, Menachem Begin attacked the government’s foreign policy at the time, which blindly relied on the assurances given by the United Nations to guarantee our national security.

Begin believed that “the directors of our foreign policy do not see… not the actual international reality, not our strategic position and not the state of our enemies. Since these blind people believe in the UN, its army, and its decisions, they have not prepared the power of the Jewish army.”

Throughout the history of our region, we have repeatedly witnessed the establishment of “peacekeeping forces,” which are ostensibly to serve as a buffer between parties in the Middle East conflict and help keep the peace. However, in reality these forces have repeatedly acted against their established purpose and mandate.

Since the War of Independence, no international forces have intervened, not even once, to prevent attacks emanating from Arab nations or by terrorist organizations against the State of Israel. On the contrary, each time there was concern of an escalation, the international forces pulled back their troops and avoided any friction, especially when the State of Israel was attacked.

In certain instances, these forces turned a blind eye or even collaborated with those Arab nations in violation of signed agreements.

Such was the case of the peacekeeping force, the United Nations Emergency Force, established in November 1956. UNEF’s mandate included monitoring the IDF withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip and ensuring freedom of navigation through the Straits of Tiran. In May 1967, the Egyptians called on the commander of UNEF to withdraw part of his forces from the area. Then-UN secretary-general U Thant, in a puzzling decision, decided to withdraw all UNEF forces. This almost immediately resulted in the Six Day War.

The fear or inability of the international forces to confront breaches of peace in the region is also currently in evidence.

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), established after the Yom Kippur War, has authority for “intervention in cases of entry to the separation area by military personnel from either side, or attempted operations.” Following an escalation in the Syrian civilian war, the Croatian parliament decided in March to withdraw around 100 of its soldiers. This month the Austrian government also announced the withdrawal of its forces.

On our southern border, after the signing of Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt, the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) was mobilized.

Its mandate was “to supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace and employ best efforts to prevent any violation of its terms.”

The helpless forces have been mere spectators to the increasing anarchy in Sinai, which is a real danger to Israel. In recent years, we have witnessed terrorist attacks, kidnapping attempts and the launching of rockets at Eilat.

A further example is the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, created in 1994, As the IDF discovered in 2001, some of the TIPH observers transferred to Fatah’s Tanzim photographic and written information regarding the actions of the IDF and the Jewish residents of Hebron. In 2010, a Foreign Ministry report stated that it is clear that the monitors almost solely dealt with criticizing Israel.

On our northern border, after the Second Lebanon War, the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon was expanded by UN Security Council Resolution 1701. The new mandate determined that UNIFIL has the power to “take all the necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces… to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind,” and its duty is to protect civilians from the threat of violence.

The UN forces did not release one report criticizing Hezbollah for fear of retaliation, even while it continues to massively rearm.

While there is much talk about it, there is no question that any international forces stationed in the Jordan Valley would not be in the least effective.

The area would merely become another Gaza or southern Lebanon.

The notion that we can rely on others was wrong in 1948 and remains erroneous today, in 2013. There is no operational value to international forces, and frequently they act in a biased and one-sided manner in violation of their mandates.

The State of Israel cannot remain blind to this history of failure, and should use all available means to defend our people and borders by ourselves.

As the saying goes, God only helps those who help themselves.

Yisrael Beytenu, All rights reserved