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Micah D. Halpern Headshot

Agreements to Protect - Fail to Protect

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Have you ever heard of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances? Here's a hint. It was signed in Budapest, in 1994. My guess is, probably not.

The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances was an agreement wherein the Ukraine agreed to dismantle all nuclear weapons in exchange for security and safety. It was signed in Budapest on December of 1994 and the signees were U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister John Major and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Here is the official summary: Russia, the UK and the U.S. undertake to respect Ukraine's borders in accordance with the principles of the 1975 CSCE Final Act, to abstain from the use or threat of force against Ukraine, to support Ukraine where an attempt is made to place pressure on it by economic coercion, and to bring any incident of aggression by a nuclear power before the UN Security Council.

In other words: the United States and Great Britain (forget about Russia) and the world promise to protect Ukraine.

This agreement and others like it, really do not help much. This one is certainly not protecting Ukraine.

Now imagine what Israel is thinking and what lessons Israelis are learning from this. How can Israel possibly assume that the United States will, should the time come, come to its defense?

When you add the failed experiences of UN Observers and international forces in the region, the entire proposal is simply letters and words without power, value or significance.

After the Israelis withdrew from Gaza, major questions emerged about the border between Gaza and Egypt. Israel wanted to control the border while the international community, especially the United States, said lets envision a more creative resolution. So in order to accommodate Hamas and the Palestinian Authority an international force was put in charge of the Palestinians side of the border.

And then to mollify the Israelis, a camera system was put into place so that Israel could watch everything that was happening in real-time and even screen people crossing the border, and then inform the internal force as to who the people that were crossing were.

Israel was able to communicate their wish to deny entry, based on their security profile, to those whom they deemed a threat and the international force would follow through and physically stop those people from entering. That worked for a few days. And then at the first sign of tension the international force ran away.

They ran to Tel Aviv.

The UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon and Syria that are supposed to keep the peace are not permitted to use their weapons except for personal defense and by then it is too late. In the best situation they become shields for the terrorists. In other cases they have been kidnapped and used as bargaining chips. In worst-case scenarios UN operations aid the terrorists by harboring them or permitting them to operate freely in and near their outposts and facilities.

Israel has learned that when push comes to diplomatic and military shove, the best they can expect is an appeal to the UN Security Council. Not much consolation there.

Like the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances these great deals are not at all great and the negotiations are not worth more than the paper they are written on. A simple piece of paper that lays out terms, defines limitations and allows for a method to resolve disputes in not enough. Unless there is true interest in creating peace and living together in peace with your neighbors assurances are doomed to fail. Look no further than Israel and the Palestinians and the Israelis. Look no further than Russia and Ukraine.