19 July 2001
Judging from the reports flooding almost every media channel, international observers, monitors, liaison officers, whatever, will shortly be arriving in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to take up peacekeeping duties. They are reportedly being sent out under pressure from most of the Europeans, some of the Palestinians and, most of all, Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres.
DEBKAfile's best sources in Jerusalem and Washington advise treating these reports with extreme care.
There was a moment in mid-June when US secretary of state Colin Powell returned home from a brief swing round the Middle East and ordered his staff, led by Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, to draw up the plans to post a team of international monitors, mostly American but some Europeans, in the embattled Palestinian-Israeli areas by this coming September.
However, according to our sources, Powell has changed his mind about the desirability of the plan, talked out of it by Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. The foreign ministers preparing the G-8 summit in Genoa have therefore amended their original proposal in the light of American wishes. The monitors will only be stationed if neither side, Palestinian or Israeli objects. Since Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon had made no secret of his objections, there will be no observers - that is, as things stand now.
It is always possible that at the last moment, out of considerations that have nothing to do with the Middle east, the eight industrialized national leaders will issue a statement in Genoa calling for an international team to monitor the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
For that moment, such a call will have no practical weight, for a number of reasons:1. The US government stands by its objections and its condition that both sides must assent to the plan.But heedless of the total irrelevance of the international monitor project, some parties will not be dissuaded from their efforts to push it through, such as France, Belgium, Scandinavia, the UK, and the Israeli foreign minister. Peres will hold the option over Ariel Sharon's head as a threat and a deterrent from military action.
2. Arafat, in one of his volte faces, has dropped his demand for monitors. He is now wholly engrossed in organizing full-scale war against Israel.
3. The first feeble attempt to position Palestinians disguised as European observers in Beit Jallah failed at its first test, the shelling of Jerusalem with mortars. (See Iron Fists in Cotton Wool)
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