The Futility of UN 'Peacekeeping' in the Middle East

By Avigdor Lieberman

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.

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The writer is chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

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