White House National Security Adviser Samuel “Sandy” Berger, who made his fortune as a street-smart trade lawyer before joining the administration, and a group of wealthy investors from the oil-rich Mideast, including Saudi Arabia, are discussing what well-informed diplomatic insiders are calling a “princely payoff” for lame-duck President Bill Clinton.
The transaction would end the flare-up of violence between Palestine’s historic Arab population and the heavily-armed Israelis by erecting a dependable firewall between the two sides.
The proposal calls for the deployment of 350 UN observers and an international “rapid reaction” force of some 2,000 to 5,000 troops to be interposed between the two warring nations, with the added mission of gradually enforcing a number of UN mandates long ignored by Israel’s hard-line leaders.
Enforcing the world forum’s decisions—known as General Assembly Resolutions 181 (II) through 242—on the status of the “Holy Land” and the hallowed city of Jerusalem, now under illegal Israeli occupation, promises to provide a “just and lasting” settlement of the long-festering conflict over the partitioning of Palestine, UN officials said.
The Palestinian leadership has long demanded international intervention in the bloody dispute with Israeli forces, who have killed more than 200 Arab demonstrators in recent weeks, and a number of European governments, led by France and Austria, are known to support such an initiative.
But it was only last month that Berger began to explore the prospects for such a move with Shlomo Ben Ami, Israel’s acting foreign minister, who emphatically turned thumbs down on the idea.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak also voiced strong opposition to “internationalizing the struggle for Palestine, arguing that it would amount to a “reward for Palestinian violence.”
A debate over armed intervention in Palestine by the world forum’s forces took place in the UN Security Council on Nov. 9, and it is tabled for a vote by the General Assembly next month.
“As it stands, the proposal has little or no chance, because the U.S. has always vetoed any move opposed by Israel,” said a veteran Islamic diplomat.
But the unspoken question is: what if Clinton—a lame-duck president with no political chips to risk—instructed his envoy, UN Ambassador Richard Hol brooke, to absent himself from the Security Council the day it casts its vote on enforcing a peaceable solution in Palestine?
“The answer is that if he has the fortitude to do that, Clinton can write his own ticket, and the face value of that ticket reportedly goes up all the way to a billion dollars,” recounted a UN official. “The Gulf states’ negotiators have told Berger they will pay that sort of ransom in any manner Clinton chooses: as an investment in a firm he may want to set up after retirement, as a political contribution, or as a deposit in a numbered bank account.”
The oil-rich Persian Gulf governments believe that a categorical UN peacekeeping resolution the U.S. delegation did not veto for the first time in history would bring with it harsh sanctions if Israel proved defiant.
That would be the beginning of the end of the long-standing illegal Israeli occupation of the vast tracts of land the world forum’s original partition decision re served for Palestine’s historic Arab population, Islamic diplomats argued.