Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British Ambassador to Israel, acknowledged that in an a private conversation with IDF official Amos Gilad he called the West Bank/Gaza the "biggest detention camp in the world" and scolded the IDF for a lack of professionalism (report), and says he is "proud" of the remarks.

It would be a cheap shot to suggest that Cowper-Coles is proud because the "detention camp" remark will get him invites to some posh dinner parties back in London - his remarks are actually mostly sane and considered, something which is exceptional and praiseworthy. But if he really thinks that the IDF is unprofessional, and that the hardships created by checkpoints etc. are broadly unnecessary, it follows that:

1) It's the details, rather than the basic fact of the IDF's presence in the PA areas that are problematic. Better training and administration is what's needed, not immediate withdrawal or other moves that constitute concessions to the PA.

2) There should be an example from somewhere in the world where a military force did a better job of maintaining order among a hostile population.

But I doubt that Cowper-Coles would actually come out and agree with what are the clear implications of his criticism.

As an aside, it's quite admirable that Cowper-Coles is learning Hebrew. Here's an op-ed where he proudly flaunts his ability to read bumper stickers.

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