Will U.S. peacekeepers be heading to the West Bank?
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently stirred controversy when he suggested that a U.S.-led NATO force might backfill Israeli soldiers as they withdraw from Palestinian areas under a two-state peace agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has voiced skepticism about foreign peacekeepers, most recently in his March 4 speech to AIPAC in Washington. Hamas meanwhile has said that they'd view NATO as a hostile occupier. For his part, Secretary of State John Kerry cautiously noted in February that a third-party force is "something for the parties to work out."
Controversial though it may be, Abbas's proposal is not going to fade quickly. Indeed, if negotiators in the peace process start making progress on other contentious issues, the question of how to transition Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) out of the West Bank in a way that both sides would find reassuring will loom ever larger. Negotiators shouldn't wait to shift gears toward implementation challenges. They should start thinking now about how to surmount obstacles to a successful security transition. In doing so, they'll need to focus on six critical questions.