Kosovo's US-backed declaration of independence is deeply troubling. By setting a precedent of legitimizing the secession of disaffected minorities, it weakens the long-term viability of multi-ethnic states. In so doing, it destabilizes the already stressed state-based international system.
States as diverse as Canada, Morocco, Spain, Georgia, Russia and China currently suffer problems with politicized minorities. They are deeply concerned by the Kosovo precedent. Even the US has latent sovereignty issues with its increasingly politicized Hispanic minority along its border with Mexico. It may one day experience a domestic backlash from its support for Kosovar independence from Serbia.
Setting aside the global implications, it is hard to see how Kosovo constitutes a viable state. Its 40 percent unemployment is a function of the absence of proper economic and governing infrastructures.
In November, a European Commission report detailed the Kosovo Liberation Army's failure to build functioning governing apparatuses. The report noted that "due to a lack of clear political will to fight corruption, and to insufficient legislative and implementing measures, corruption is still widespread… Civil servants are still vulnerable to political interference, corrupt practices and nepotism." Moreover, "Kosovo's public administration remains weak and inefficient."
The report continued, "The composition of the government anti-corruption council does not sufficiently guarantee its impartiality," and "little progress can be reported in the area of organized crime and combating of trafficking in human beings."
Additionally, the prosecution of Albanian war criminals is "hampered by the unwillingness of the local population to testify" against them. This is in part due to the fact that "there is still no specific legislation on witness protection in place."
The fledgling failed-state of Kosovo is a great boon for the global jihad. It is true that Kosovar Muslims by and large do not subscribe to radical Islam. But it is also true that they have allowed their territory to be used as bases for al-Qaida operations; that members of the ruling Kosovo Liberation Army have direct links to al-Qaida; and that the Islamic world as a whole perceived Kosovo's fight for independence from Serbia as a jihad for Islamic domination of the disputed province.
According to a 2002 Wall Street Journal report, al-Qaida began operating actively in Kosovo, and in the rest of the Balkans, in 1992. Osama bin Laden visited Albania in 1996 and 1997. He received a Bosnian passport from the Bosnian Embassy in Austria in 1993. Acting on bin Laden's orders, in 1994 his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri set up training bases throughout the Balkans including one in Mitrovica, Kosovo. The Taliban and al-Qaida set up drug trafficking operations in Kosovo to finance their operations in Afghanistan and beyond.
In 2006, John Gizzi reported in Human Events that the German intelligence service BND had confirmed that the 2005 terrorist bombings in Britain and the 2004 bombings in Spain were organized in Kosovo. Furthermore, "The man at the center of the provision of the explosives in both instances was an Albanian, operating mostly out of Kosovo… who is the second ranking leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, Niam Behzloulzi."
Then, too, at its 1998 meeting in Pakistan, the Organization of the Islamic Conference declared that the Albanian separatists in Kosovo were fighting a jihad. The OIC called on the Muslim world to help "this fight for freedom on the occupied Muslim territories."
Supporters of Kosovo claim that as victims of "genocide," Kosovar Muslims deserve independence. But if the Muslims in Kosovo have been targeted for annihilation by the Serbs, then how is it that they have increased from 48% of the population in 1948 to 92% today? Indeed, Muslims comprised only 78% of the population in 1991, the year before Yugoslavia broke apart.
In recent years particularly, it is Kosovo's Serbian Christians, not its Albanian Muslims, who are targeted for ethnic cleansing. Since 1999, two-thirds of Kosovo's Serbs – some 250,000 people – have fled the area.
The emergence of a potentially destabilizing state in Kosovo is clearly an instance of political interests trumping law. Under international law, Kosovo has no right to be considered a sovereign state. Even UN Security Council Resolution 1244 from 1999, which the KLA claims provides the legal basis for Kosovar sovereignty, explicitly recognizes Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo.
For Israel, Kosovo's US-backed declaration of independence should be a source of alarm great enough to require a rethinking of foreign policy. Unfortunately, rather than understand and implement the lessons of Kosovo, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government is working actively to ensure that they are reenacted in the international community's treatment of Israel and the Palestinians. Today, Israel is enabling the Palestinians to set the political and legal conditions for the establishment of an internationally recognized state of Palestine that will be at war with Israel.
By accepting the "Road Map Plan to a Two-State Solution" in 2004, Israel empowered the US, the EU, Russia and the UN, who comprise the international Quartet, to serve as judges of Palestinian and Israeli actions toward one another. In November 2007, at the Annapolis conference, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government explicitly empowered the US to "monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides of the road map."
That these moves have made Israel dependent on the kindness of strangers was made clear this week when Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni instructed Israel's ambassadors to launch a campaign to convince the international community that Israel and the Palestinians are making great strides in their negotiations toward the establishment of a Palestinian state. Livni's move was precipitated by growing European and US dissatisfaction with the pace of those negotiations and by reports from the meeting of Quartet members in Berlin on February 11. There all members voiced anger at the slow pace of negotiations and opposition to Israel's military actions in Gaza, which are aimed at protecting the western Negev from rocket and mortar attacks.
The US representative at the Quartet's meeting, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, reportedly told his colleagues, "First, we must not allow the suicide bombing in Dimona and the shooting on Sderot to affect the negotiations."
Welch reportedly added, "It is also important to us that neither the Palestinians in Gaza nor the Israelis in Sderot are hurt. Also, we must continue to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas and Salaam Fayad."
Moreover, Ran Koriel, Israel's ambassador to the EU, reportedly warned Livni that the Russians are pushing for the re-establishment of a Fatah-Hamas government. Several EU states, including France, are reconsidering their refusal to recognize Hamas.
If Israel had not empowered the Quartet generally and the US specifically to determine whether the PA and Israel are behaving properly, a European or Russian decision to recognize Hamas would have little impact. But given their role as arbiters, Quartet members can take punitive action against Israel if it fails to comply with their wishes. The Quartet can replace international law in determining who can assert sovereignty over Gaza, Judea and Samaria and how Israel can exercise its own sovereignty. And so, Livni is reduced to begging them not to recognize Hamas.
Once the US decided in 1999 to commit its own forces to NATO's bombing of Serbia and subsequent occupation of Kosovo, the jig was up for Serbian sovereignty over the area. The fact is, NATO forces in Kosovo were deployed for the express purpose of blocking Serbia from exercising its sovereignty over Kosovo, no
t to prevent violence between the Kosovars and the Serbs or among the Muslims and Christians in Kosovo. That is, NATO deployed in Kosovo to enable it to gain independence.
And if US or NATO forces are deployed to Gaza or Judea and Samaria, they will not be there to protect Israelis from Palestinian terror or to prevent the areas from acting as global terror bases. They will be there to establish a Palestinian state.
Failing to understand the meaning of Kosovo, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government refuses to understand this point. Indeed, the government is actively lobbying NATO to deploy forces in Gaza. Just as it wrongly hoped that UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon would fight Hizbullah for it, so today, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government insists that NATO forces in Gaza will fight Hamas for it.
If applying the lessons of UNIFIL to Gaza is too abstract for the Olmert-Livni-Barak government, Israel has experience with EU monitors in Gaza itself to learn from. Wrongly assuming that the Europeans shared Israel's interest in preventing terrorists and weapons from entering Gaza, Israel requested that EU monitors set up shop at the Rafah terminal linking Gaza to Egypt after Israel withdrew from the border in 2005. Yet whenever confronted by Fatah and Hamas terrorists, rather than fight the EU monitors flee to Israel for protection. And its monitors' experience with Palestinian terrorists taking over the border has never caused the EU to question its support for Palestinian statehood.
Then, too, since the US, EU, UN and Russia all consider Gaza, Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to be one territorial unit, it is not surprising that Israel's request for NATO forces in Gaza has been greeted by a US plan to deploy NATO forces in Judea and Samaria. If NATO forces in Gaza would do nothing to secure the border with Egypt or to fight terrorists and would scuttle Israeli operations in the area, NATO forces in Judea and Samaria would not simply prevent Israel from protecting its citizens who live there. They would also prevent Israel from taking action to prevent the Palestinians from attacking central Israel and asserting control over the border with Jordan. And yet, as The Jerusalem Post reported this week, Israel is conducting talks with the US regarding just such a NATO deployment.
What the Serbs made NATO fight its way in to achieve, Israel is offering NATO on a silver platter.
Not surprisingly, Abbas's adviser and PA propaganda chief Yasser Abd Rabbo reacted to Kosovo's declaration of independence by recommending that the Palestinians follow the example. Abd Rabbo said, "Kosovo is not better than us. We deserve independence even before Kosovo, and we ask for the backing of the United States and the European Union for our independence."
For its part, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government has responded to Kosovo's declaration of independence with customary confusion. But the lessons of Kosovo are clear. Not only should Israel join Russia, Canada, China, Spain, Romania and many others in refusing to recognize Kosovo. It should also state that as a consequence of Kosovo's independence, Israel rejects the deployment of any international forces to Gaza or Judea and Samaria, and refuses to cede its legal right to sovereignty in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem to international arbitration.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.