Staying the Course

The world’s attention is fixated on North Korea; complacent of Syria; and only vaguely cognizant of Libya that teeters perilously on the brink of anarchy. Israel heeds these cases as they offer insight to the future. Israel sees North Korea and thinks Iran; contemplates Syria with an eye on Jordan; and notes the worlds self-righteous mind-set to reconstruct Libya. The lessons show the world doesn’t stay the course; solving one problem tends to generate another; there are parallels to be learnt and applied.

Let me compare Libya with a potential Palestinian state. A year after the Libyan revolt began, a weak transitional government confronts armed militias and mounting public frustration. Defiant young men with heavy weapons control Libya’s airports, harbors and oil installations. Tribes and smugglers rule desert areas south of the capital. Clashes among various militias for turf and political power rage.

Will it be different in Hebron, Ramallah and Tulkarem a year after Palestinian independence?

The Libyan government sits on the sidelines avoiding conflicts with militias it cannot control. Recent attempts to subdue Qaddafi holdouts in the town of Bani Walid ended in humiliation; government forces were outgunned and outfought. Their weakness results from the lack of a crucial institution for state building: a national army.

Will it be different in Gaza and in relations between Fatah and Hamas?

Libyan government officials recently announced plans to disarm the militias and integrate former rebels into the army. But there is no army structure to absorb these young fighters-and increase public confidence in the government’s ability to otherwise disarm them. While NATO countries and allies have started to train and equip the security forces, there is more that outsiders can do to help.

Can Abu Mazen unify the disparate Palestinian elements even with outside assistance from the United States and others ?

Washington has a window of opportunity to shape Libya’s civil-military relations and promote democracy and economic growth as well as help stabilize North Africa. However the United States has found that Libya and the Libyan military are a blank slate. Muammar el-Qaddafi, fearful of coups, entrusted little authority to the senior ranks of the military and did not develop an effective civilian administration. Libya was ruled top-down.

This year 2013 is the twentieth anniversary of the Oslo Accords for the creation of a Palestinian interim self-government; yet the areas under Palestinian control are a blank slate. There is no definitive or effective hierarchy of governance under Abu Mazen.

Key priorities should be education, health care, construction and local governance. What is critical now is to create an institutional structure. Economic development, a robust private sector, an independent judiciary, civil society and an empowered Parliament are all part of the equation. Before these institutions can take root, security must be present.

Am I talking about Libya, North Korea, Syria, Iran or Palestine?

Israel cannot rely on the world to resolve Palestinian statehood and Iranian nuclear ambitions; the options on the table are not favorable for Israel’s long term survival. The lessons of North Korea, Syria and Libya show the world doesn’t stay the course; solving one problem tends to generate another; there are parallels to be learnt and applied. First and foremost security and stability must be present and ongoing. This must be the opening standpoint of Israel in any negotiations about both Iran and Palestine.

Dr Glen Segell, FRGS, is Researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies Tel Aviv, Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and Senior Researcher for the Ariel Research Center for Defense and Communication

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.