|I read Tom Friedman's column and was appalled. How could Tom Friedman, who spent the 80's reporting from Beirut, make such a ludicrous suggestion?|
First of all, NATO forces in the West Bank would be a HUGE win for Arafat, and would just validate the whole intifada strategy, ecouraging more of the same.
Second, what would NATO forces do when Hamas used them for human shields, just as it used the TIPH forces in Hebron? There are basically two options.
First option: They could follow the example of the TIPH and UNFIL forces, which is to focus almost entirely on Israeli actions, making no distinction between responses to terror and first strikes, and ignoring Palestinian actions. Why do the the UN forces do this? It's not because they are anti-semites (for the most part). It's just that it's much easier to observe a army than a terrorist cell (Hamas does not permit inspection of suicide bomber facilities), and an army has a chain of command. If an Israeli officer loses his temper and threatens to shoot the observers, he has a CO, who has a general, who reports to Sharon, etc. Killing observers would be very bad PR for Israel. But if a Hamas terrorist threatens to shoot the observers, who do you complain to? Arafat always has super deniability. So they play ball, aware that a bomb may head their way if they don't.
Second option: They could actually try to keep the peace, which would mean seizing arms from Hamas and company. This would involve them in the fighting, and the gunfire would soon be aimed in their direction. Would they stay if a bomb blew up their barracks, as happened to the Marines in Beirut in 1983? I sincerely doubt it.
History has shown again and again that peacekeepers are only of use when there is a peace to keep. If one side wants to keep shooting, the peacekeepers will only find themselves being used as human shields. To respond to this situation requires that they be willing to fight, and generally speaking, they do not have the stomach for a war.
IMO the minimum necessity, the sine qua non for getting out of this impasse, is a change in Palestinian leadership, to one with some legitimacy. Arafat has got to go. At this point even Hamas would be an improvement. Hamas has a basic PR problem in the West -- they're honest. The completely lack Arafat's talent for talking peace in English and jihad in Arabic. They talk jihad in any language, and don't pretend to be aiming just for the West Bank and Gaza. But if they came to power in an election, they might able to negotiate a truce.