Israeli think tank doubts outsiders could enforce ceasefire

Friday, June 27, 2003

TEL AVIV The international community does not appear capable of deploying a military force that can maintain a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians, a study says.

The Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies said that neither the European Union nor NATO has sufficient troops or firepower to engage in operations against Palestinian insurgents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The report by the Tel Aviv University-based center said any international combat force could be vulnerable to Palestinian attacks.

The European Union has been examining the feasibility of a military mission to enforce a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and ensure the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of an international plan called the roadmap. The force has been promoted by France as a means to provide both Israel and the PA with security amid repeated breakdowns of efforts to end the 31-month-old war.

Entitled "Can International Forces Rescue The Road Map?" the report examined the use of two emerging forces being established for humanitarian and peacekeeping duties. They are the European Rapid Reaction Force [ERRF] and NATO Reaction Force [NRF].

"All in all, it appears that in the current circumstances, neither the ERRF nor the NRF provides a viable solution to the problem of rescuing the road map from those determined not to follow it," the report, authored by senior researcher and former Israeli Defense Ministry official Uzi Eilam, said.

The European force is already involved in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and has formally assumed responsibility from NATO for peacekeeping in Macedonia. In 2004, it is scheduled to take over responsibility for NATO's 17,000-member force in Bosnia.

The report said the ERRF lacks critical capabilities such as air-to-air refueling, combat search-and-rescue, nuclear, biological and chemical protection, special operations forces and unmanned aerial vehicles. In addition, the EU has not approved the force's budget of between $6 billion and $8 billion.

"For it to become a truly effective and relevant peacekeeping force, two main obstacles need to be overcome: the gap in capabilities, and the political disunity and confusion in Europe, exacerbated by the double-enlargement of the EU and NATO," the report said.

The report said the European force could not be introduced into the region until phase one of the roadmap is launched. This includes a ceasefire, Israeli withdrawal to positions deployed before September 2000 and PA control of insurgency groups.

"Even a ceasefire of six months may not be sufficient to meet these conditions," the report said. "And even if it is, there is a further obstacle: the deep-seated Israeli distrust of the EU as biased in favor of the Palestinians."

The report said the NATO reaction force, which envisions a unit of 20,000 troops with rapid-response capabilities, is not meant for the low-intensity conflict that is taking place between Israel and the Palestinians. The NATO force is meant for initial capability in October 2004 and full-fledged operational status two years later.

The European force, the report, said appears better designed to implement monitoring and truce observation roles. In contrast, the NATO force, aimed for high intensity combat operations, would be more appropriate for search-and-destroy missions against insurgency bases in such countries as Indonesia, Yemen and Morocco.

"If Phase I of the road map is accomplished, there will be no need for an NRF-type fighting force," the report said. "Conversely, if there is no progress on the road map, the nature of the terrorist organizations and their methods of operation will limit the NRF's ability to cope with the problem. Instead, the NRF will simply provoke violent opposition from Palestinians convinced that an American-led force is little more than a substitute for the Israeli army."

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