On 6-7 May 2004—in the wake of Likud’s rejection of Sharon’s disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank—a group of Israelis, Palestinians and international officials and experts convened to address operational aspects of third party involvement in a withdrawal process. Chaired by Jarat Chopra and Mark Walsh, the meeting was hosted in Noordwijk aan Zee by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, sponsored by the Programme for Security in International Society at the University of Cambridge Centre of International Studies and organized with Strategic Assessments Initiative. The aim of the discussions was to consider what can and cannot work from a functional perspective, within the context of social and political realities. The meeting explored a range of issues affecting the design of any third party role during the period of an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territory. The participants combined local and regional expertise, direct knowledge of the parties’ positions and experience in complex peace operations, with humanitarian, military and transitional political elements. This mixture of individuals allowed the synthesis of area-specific information and lessons of multi-dimensional missions to produce comprehensive planning considerations. The following report is a reflection of the issues discussed, and incorporates many of the ideas contributed by the participants.
The report below identifies current strategic aspects of an Israeli withdrawal; describes the operating environment for a third party; outlines the potential nature of international involvement in the border regime, in Palestinian governance and in the transfer of assets in the Gaza Strip; and concludes with general planning factors and considerations.