Rafah : more of the same
Israeli and Egyptian officers signed an agreement Thursday to deploy 750 lightly-armed Egyptian troops along the border with the Gaza Strip who are meant to prevent weapons-smuggling into Gaza.
Following the announcement, one could hardly flip through a paper or browse an online news site without finding something that didn't tout the agreement as the end of the miserable border regime that is Rafah Crossing; a bunch of other articles I came across even spoke of the the reunion of Egyptian and Palestinian Rafah-split apart after the 1967 war.
I was speaking to a friend of mine yesterday-a freelancer based in Ramallah who is here visiting Gaza, and I remarked in frustration "it seems like these people are living in some sort of parallel universe. " "That's because they are," he said.
We say that because in the end, nothing will change. Ultimate control over the border-the only route to the outside world for Gaza’s 1.4 millions Palestinians (that oft-repeated statistic includes Yousuf and me) will remain in Israeli hands.
In fact, the Egyptian-Israeli deal was signed despite the fact that no agreement has yet been reached with the Palestinian Authority on who will ultimately control the borders after Israel's pullout from Gaza.
Also of interest-Israel is relocating the crossing farther southeast to a point where the Egyptian-Gaza-Israeli borders meet, an area called "Kerem Shalom", despite opposition from Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
Now why would they do that-relocate a perfectly miserable crossing? Is it because they are humane-maybe they want to service us better-after all those long waits in the non-airconditioned run-down buses, complete with fainting women and children, are really getting to be a drag.
What we'll often hear in the news is-they want to be able to check Palestinian goods. But how is that different that what happens now?
Actually, the new location would allow Israeli troops to control Palestinian movement in and out of Gaza WITHOUT physically being present in the Strip. What does that matter one may ask? Well, it is an attempt to bolster the Israeli argument that they are no longer occupying the area.
Right. Does anyone else see a problem with this scenario?
Palestinians of course reject the proposal, arguing that without free access for people and goods and sovereignty over their air, sea, and borders, the economy, and the future of their state, will be in peril. So far, those rejections have fallen on deaf ears, and foreign minister Nasir al-Qidwa has acquiesced (frankly, its not like he had any say in the matter-the Israelis have already started work on the new terminal) to the Israeli proposal.