Concern is growing in the government over Egyptian plans to open the Rafah
crossing with the Gaza Strip, as ties between Cairo and Hamas tighten and the
Egyptian people’s support for the peace treaty with Israel wanes.
troubled by recent developments concerning Egypt. We are troubled by the voices
calling for the abrogation of the peace treaty. We are troubled by the
rapprochement between Iran and Egypt, and we are troubled by the upgrading of
the relationship between Egypt and Hamas,” a government official told The
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These developments, as well as the planned
opening of the Rafah crossing between Sinai and the Gaza Strip, have strategic
implications for Israel, the source said.
Hamas was able to build a
formidable military machine in Gaza when the Rafah crossing was closed and the
Egyptian government was actively working to prevent weapons smuggling, he said.
Opening Rafah would make it possible for Hamas to build an even more formidable
terrorist military machine, the source said.
At the same time, some
officials said the opening of the crossing could be viewed as an opportunity for
Israel to complete its “civilian disengagement” from Gaza and transfer all
responsibility for the Strip to Egypt.
On Thursday, Egypt announced plans to permanently open the
crossing sometime in the next 10 days. While the crossing has been officially
closed since June 2007, when Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip, Egypt has
sporadically opened it to allow Palestinians to travel in and out of
Some 162,000 people passed through the crossing in 2010, Israeli
defense officials said.
On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal cited an
unnamed Israeli official as saying that the permanent opening of the crossing
could “affect Israel’s national security on a strategic level.”
report drew a harsh response from Egyptian Chief of Staff Gen. Sami Anan, who
warned Israel not to interfere in his country’s internal affairs.
has no right to interfere in the issue of the opening of the Rafah crossing,”
Anan wrote on his Facebook page. “This is an Egyptian- Palestinian
Israel’s concern is that opening the crossing would enable Hamas
men to travel freely overseas for training and commit terrorist
Without effective inspections, the crossing could also be used
as a conduit for weapons and money into the Strip.
In 2005, the United
States brokered a deal among Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt under
which the crossing would only be open under the supervision of the EUBAM
(European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah) monitoring
Israeli officials said the Egyptian- Hamas agreement to open the
crossing did not include international supervision.
The government is
also concerned about the strengthening of ties between the new regime in Cairo
Last month, Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar visited Cairo
for talks with Egyptian intelligence and military officials.
officials said the bolstered ties could be linked to the elections in Egypt set
for September (legislative) and November (presidential). The opening of the
crossing could also have been one of Hamas’s conditions for accepting the
Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement with Fatah.
government [in Cairo] knows that the Muslim Brotherhood is strong in Egypt, and
therefore it wants to keep it and Hamas content,” one official said.
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