Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

New National Security Adviser Sparks Talk of International Troops in West Bank

Washington — The selection of retired Marine General James Jones as President-elect Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser has reopened discussions over deployment of international forces to the Palestinian territories, an idea fathered by Jones last year.

Jones, a former commander of NATO forces, raised the suggestion in talks with Israelis and Palestinians last year, but did not push for its implementation. One reason might have been strong Israeli opposition to entrusting international military forces with the country’s security.

Jones’s appointment to Obama’s national security team won praise from Israelis who point to his work in the past year as the administration’s special envoy to the Palestinian Authority. He is credited with bringing about the Jenin security arrangement that enabled the handover of responsibility to Palestinian forces in the city and is considered knowledgeable of the intricacies of West Bank security arrangements.

But Jones also raised concern during this mission, when he argued against having Israel keep full security responsibility for the West Bank after an agreement is reached. Jones proposed that an interim international force led by NATO would take over until Palestinian forces are prepared to maintain security.

The proposal was not made in writing and did not become part of the American policy in the region. Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed that Jones raised the proposal in his talks with Israelis.

“The idea wasn’t to give over all security issues to NATO, but rather to reassure Israelis that their security concerns would be taken care of even after withdrawal,” said an Israeli official who was briefed on Jones’s work.

Still, Israelis saw the proposal as a warning signal and turned it down immediately. Traditionally, Israel’s security establishment has opposed placement of foreign troops in the region, worried about their impartiality and effectiveness. Israelis are also concerned that increased involvement of foreign players, other than Americans, in the Israeli–Arab conflict will tilt the balance in favor of the Arab side. For this reason, Israel insisted that the multinational peacekeeping force in Sinai will be under American command. Israel reluctantly accepted the presence of UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon and of a small international monitoring group in Hebron.

According to Israeli officials, Jones did not insist on pursuing the idea of putting international forces on the ground. “It is my understanding that once the Israeli view on this was made clear, it was taken off the table,” the official said. Nonetheless, the Jerusalem Post on December 2 quoted an unnamed senior IDF officer calling Jones’s idea of deploying NATO forces to the West Bank “very bad,” arguing that “NATO will not want to endanger its soldiers on behalf of Israeli citizens.”

NATO leaders have made it clear in the past that the alliance will not send troops to the region without an explicit request from both sides and after an appropriate resolution passes the United Nations Security Council.

Jones himself did not go back to the idea in a lengthy interview he gave last month to “Inside the Pentagon” — a professional newsletter tracking the business and politics of the defense establishment. Jones did, however, stress in the interview the need for the next administration to build on the success of his work in Jenin, saying, “nothing is more important” than continuing to lay the groundwork for a two-state solution.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.