Is Trusteeship for Palestine the Answer?

Suhaib Salem / Courtesy Reuters

In the wake of Hamas's coup in the Gaza Strip and the appointment of an emergency government by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process faces its greatest crisis in years. A three-state solution cannot lead to a resolution of the conflict. Yet without a responsible Palestinian partner capable of living up to its commitments to peace, there will be no possibility of putting the peace process back on track. Given the collapse of the Palestinian security apparatus, the call is again heard for international intervention.

When I proposed an international trusteeship for Palestine in the May/June 2003 issue of Foreign Affairs, it was in the context of the forthcoming war in Iraq. At the time, President George W. Bush had claimed that a positive ripple effect would wash across the region. On the eve of the war, Bush had endorsed a road map for creating an independent Palestinian state. I believed that it was essential for Bush to take advantage of the opportunity that his war-making in Iraq would generate for peacemaking on the Israeli-Palestinian front.

But, having served as President Bill Clinton's and Bush's ambassador to Israel at the beginning of the Palestinian intifada, I had become convinced that nothing would come of any renewed U.S. effort unless an antidote was found to the fundamental weakness of Palestinian governing institutions. Without a responsible Palestinian partner and a capable and disciplined Palestinian security apparatus, no progress could be made on any peace plan.

Despairing that Palestinians could not on their own overcome the dysfunctional governing structure that Yasser Arafat had built, and knowing that Arafat was no longer a reliable partner for peace, I proposed a full-scale U.S.-led and U.N.-endorsed international intervention to take away control of most of the West Bank and all of Gaza from Arafat and the Israeli army. Those territories were to be held in trust for the Palestinians while the trustees worked with responsible Palestinian partners to create the

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