Egypt to Open Rafah Border
June 16, 2011 1 Comment
Egypt has informed the world that it would be opening its Rafah border with Gaza as soon as this weekend. Surprisingly not all who oppose Hamas in Israel are unhappy about this news.
There is certainly a military risk to Israel with the borders being open, since this would make the flow of weapons, technology and building materials much easier. If this happens Israel would have to consider that the next conflict in Gaza would be much harder as many bunkers and strategic fighting points would have been built and the weapons used, might be more advanced than anticipated.
Also, the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is still being held in Gaza. Part of the reason for the blockade has been the demand to return him, in which Israel tried, unsuccessfully, to gain an advantage by indicating to Hamas that releasing the soldier would immediately improve the lives of the people of Gaza. Therefore there would be a lot of frustration in Israel over the success of Hamas as a result of their endurance.
However the news is not all bad for Israel. Israel predicted, quite wrongly, that the economic pressure the Gaza civilians are under would ultimately cause the people to topple Hamas. Even though, there was an ever increasing chance for that happening with the new “Arab Spring”, which is probably one of the determining factors for Hamas agreeing to reconcile with Fatah, in exchange for the border opening. Israel still suffered a great deal of world condemnations for the situation, while Hamas carried on asserting it rule. In fact, Egypt’s action actually allows Israel to avoid some the world’s condemnation, without losing face to Hamas, which is what was about to happen with every Flotilla headed to the Gaza shores. If anything, it is apparent that Hamas has entered this agreement from a point of weakness, since despite this agreement they still have fundamental disagreements with Fatah. Nevertheless, an open border would mean the humanitarian situation in Gaza should cease and some pressure should be taken off of Israel.
Another reason for Israel to be glad about this move is the ability to dissociate itself from Gaza. Since the pull out in 2005 and especially the violent Hamas takeover in 2007, Israel has been obliged to continue providing essentials to Gaza. Israel had to allow humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza through their shared border, despite local opposition, as well provide electricity and manage money that ultimately reached Hamas. So in essence since the pullout, it lost the security controls it had, but still suffered the international condemnation and had to make some unpopular concessions to a government set to destroy it.
The Egyptian move is quite a surprising one, since one of the reasons Mubarak maintained the blockade from his side of the border was the fear that the “Palestinian problem”, which was pushed away from Egypt in 1979, would be creeping back. After all, before 1967, when Egypt ruled Gaza, the Palestinians were already there and wanting their independence. Even though the Palestinian’s plight did not penetrate the mainstream agenda under Egyptian rule as much as now, the Egyptians also had to deal with the consequences of ruling over a group of people that want sovereignty and that could threaten the stability of the Egyptian government. Egypt is now more than ever threatened by the possibility of the religious Muslim Brotherhood gaining support and the consequences of that given their alliance with Hamas.
For this reason Israel estimated that despite the declarations, Egypt wouldn’t act as quickly and that the reality of opening the border would probably not be as sensational and game changing as the intial declarations. However following the most recent announcement by Hamas it seems that this would go ahead.
It will be interesting to see how the new situation unfolds and changes the reality for Israel, Hamas and the public supporting Gaza on a humanitarian basis. After all, while Israel loses some of its military advantage, Hamas is potentially losing some of its underdog status.