A cornerstone of U.S.-Israel policy over the past five years has just partially dissolved with Egypt’s reopening today of the Rafah border crossing. This will allow passenger traffic (but not goods) to cross every day with little hindrance (though men from 18-40 will have to undergo a special security screening). It leaves Israel to maintain its siege on its own border with Gaza. Israel currently maintains the only border crossing that allows goods to cross. But Egypt is considering removing even this restriction. When it does (as I presume it will if there are no major problems with the Rafah opening), then the Israeli siege will be dead. And yet another punitive U.S.-Israeli policy toward the Palestinians will have bitten the dust and shown itself to have served no useful purpose.
Ethan Bronner, as usual acting as the stenographer for the Israeli government and conveying the wishful thinking of its policy “experts,” claims the lifting of the Egyptian siege will actually help Israeli policy goals. It supposedly will place a greater burden on Egypt to police its borders and, by extension, Hamas. But the most laughable claim by the Israelis is that lifting the siege will actually release international pressure on Israel, since there presumably would no longer be any humanitarian crisis to make the world scream bloody murder. What this neglects though, is that Egypt will likely shortly allow everything to enter Gaza, not just people. And when that happens, Israel will look stupid if it maintains a blockade. It’s reminds me of the extraordinary lengths to which the French went to build the Maginot Line, which they believed made them impregnable to German attack. There was only one problem: when the Germans attacked, they went around it and conquered France in record time. Maintaining a siege on one border when the other is completely open looks not only mean-spirited and ineffectual, but downright dumb. Israel doesn’t like to be seen by the world as dumb. So I predict even the Israeli siege will be drastically modified in six months or less.
Returning to Hamas, as Tony Karon so aptly writes at his Time Magazine blog, there is only one way to deal with it: engage. If there is ever to be real peace between Israelis and Palestinians it will have to receive at least a tacit blessing from Hamas. Laying siege to Gaza was a useless, wasted policy. It secured nothing, proved nothing. We (that is, the U.S., I can’t speak for Israel) should try something else. Something more positive. If we don’t, we will have only ourselves to blame and the corpses of hundreds or thousands more dead laid at our doorstep until we look at things more pragmatically and less ideologically.
- Egypt to open Rafah crossing permanently (warincontext.org)