The Arab media in general and al-Jazeera in particular constantly characterize the opening of the crossing as a humiliating act for Israel. The Egyptians did not only disregard Israel, but also the other parties to the Rafah agreement: The US, members of the International Quartet, and the Palestinian Authority. Yet as it turns out, none of the parties are quick to voice outrage, and this is no coincidence.
The agreement, which has not been fulfilled in the past four years anyway, became irrelevant following the latest developments in the Middle East. In 2010, more than 130,000 Gazans passed through the crossing and another 30,000 passed through it since the start of upheaval in Egypt.
Opening the crossing officially will not essentially change the reality that already exists on the ground: People passing through without any supervision by Israel, the Quartet or the PA. The Egyptians merely institutionalized an existing situation. When Egypt wanted to allow Islamic Jihad members to enter in the past, it simply did so. And if it wishes to do so in the future, it won’t be asking for anyone’s permission.
And so, the violation of the agreement has no security implications for Israel. Those who fear that Gilad Shalit will be smuggled to the Sinai Peninsula via the crossing should take into account that he can be smuggled today already, via underground tunnels.
The ban on transferring goods via the Rafah Crossing, which remains intact at this time, is being circumvented by Gazans using small containers or large suitcases characterized as “personal equipment.” If someone is concerned about arms smuggling via Rafah, here too the opening of the crossing makes no difference: Some 70 arms smuggling tunnels are regularly active at this time.
Gaza blockade ends
Meanwhile, the fact that Egypt is opening the crossing in an orderly manner implies a de facto declaration of taking responsibility for the Gaza population. Israel, which is currently facing a global de-legitimization offensive over the blockade, can tell the nations of the world that there is no longer a blockade in place. The sense of being choked up no longer exists for Gaza residents – they can come and go into Egypt as they please.
The address for complaints shifted from Israel to Egypt. With the Rafah Crossing open, the hospitals of el-Arish will turn into the address for humanitarian assistant to Gazans.
The Egyptian decision is also supposed to neutralize the next Gaza flotilla.
Israel needs to start thinking out of the box and relate to the Gaza Strip in a different manner. Ships wish to reach Gaza through the large flotilla planned for the end of June? Go ahead. The ships should be inspected at sea, and if no arms are found, let them reach Gaza. A vessel that forcefully resists a search will be directed to el-Arish.
The Egyptians, being weak at this time, shot themselves in the foot. Mubarak’s regime did not want to fall into this trap and assume responsible for Gaza residents. The new regime led by the generals undertook this step in order to appease the Muslim Brotherhood.
Hamas gained a diplomatic-physiological-political achievement in the short term. This also marks a very bad sign for Israel-Egypt relations, as the Egyptians bluntly violated a signed agreement with Israel. Yet in the long run, Israel will only gain.
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