Danny Ayalon walking like a cool guy 311.
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
The Defense Ministry
has begun preparing for the possible transfer to the PA of
responsibility for the crossings into the Gaza Strip, The Jerusalem Post
has learned.Among the items
visible at the crossing on Thursday morning were stacks
of lumber for a construction project under the auspices of the
international community and industrial-sized spools of thread.
On Wednesday night, Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, the
coordinator of government activities in the territories, met with
Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian Authority’s minister for civilian
Officials: Don't end Gaza export ban
Mitchell meets Abbas in Ramallah
The two men decided to establish a number of joint
Israeli-PA teams to coordinate work on two issues – the renovation of
the Kerem Shalom crossing and international construction projects in the
The work at Kerem Shalom will include the
construction of infrastructure that could be used one day by the PA if
it were to take over control of the crossing from Israel.
and PA President Mahmoud Abbas have been pressuring Israel for several
years to transfer control over the Gaza crossings to the PA. This has
been regarded by some as a means of enabling the PA to regain a small
foothold in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Until now, the IDF has opposed the
move, citing security risks.
Since the government’s decision last
week to ease the blockade on Gaza, the IDF understands that this is
likely to be one of the next steps that Israel will have to take.
IDF also anticipates that it will soon be asked to begin allowing
Gazans to export goods as well. The IDF opposes the export idea since,
if it is allowed, Israel would be left without any leverage over Hamas.
need to expand Kerem Shalom stems from the cabinet’s decision to
increase the number of trucks that cross daily into Gaza from around 100
to close to 250.
In addition, the Office of the Coordinator of
Government Activities in the Territories is considering opening the
Karni crossing three days a week instead of just two. While Karni is
closed to trucks due to the risk of terrorist attacks, animal feed,
grain and gravel are transferred there on a mechanical conveyer belt.
European Union observers may be involved in control transfer
model under which Israel would transfer control over the crossings
would likely involve an international mechanism like the European Union
observers, who were stationed at the Rafah crossing from 2005 until
2007, when they were kicked out by Hamas. EUBAM Rafah (The European
Union Border Assistance Mission at the Rafah Crossing Point) has since
kept a smaller delegation (18 international members and 8 local staff,
according to its Web site) on standby in Ashkelon, awaiting a political
decision to redeploy the observers at one of the Gaza crossings.
such a model, the PA would run the crossing with international
oversight, to ensure that only legitimate supplies were transferred. It
is not clear whether there would be any IDF presence.
Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said during a tour of Kerem Shalom on
Thursday that the amount of goods crossing weekly from Israel into Gaza
is 40 percent of the amount of goods imported into the whole of Israel.
led 80 foreign diplomats to the Kerem Shalom crossing so they could see
for themselves how Israel transfers goods to Gaza.
He said he
had wanted the diplomats to “understand first-hand the real effort that
Israel is doing and has been doing to make sure that there is continued
and consistent flow of civilian goods to Gaza, in order that the
civilian population in Gaza will not be affected by the occupation of
He explained that about 10,000 tons of goods a week head
into Gaza for its population of 1.5 million, compared with the 20,000 to
25,000 tons a week that is imported into Israel for its population of
“It is more than enough to meet the needs of the
Gaza population,” he said.
Still, he said, Israel in the next few
weeks plans to increase the flow of goods into Gaza to a level close to
what it was before Israel closed the crossings to all but humanitarian
goods in 2007.
“We will double and even triple the amount of
goods sent into Gaza. The only bottlenecks that will remain will be on
the Palestinian side,” Ayalon said.
have urged Israel to re-open Karni, a crossing that was designed to
handle mass quantities of goods, particularly raw industrial materials,
needed for the Gaza economy to thrive.
But on Thursday, Ayalon
said that Kerem Shalom could handle the necessary flow of consumer
“The idea is to move all the operations to Kerem Shalom,
which is easier to defend and protect,” he said.
Ayalon: 'Karni remains a
Karni remains a
dangerous crossing to operate because of its proximity to a densely
populated area of the Strip, said Ayalon.
“We have sustained
casualties there,” he said, adding that rockets have been fired at it
and tunnels dug underneath it.
He noted that even though Kerem
Shalom was safer than Karni, it was not immune from Hamas’s attacks.
showed the diplomats the security procedures at the crossing.
people who work at the crossing do so under constant threats,” Ayalon
told the diplomats.
“Even though this
crossing itself has been targeted on a regular basis,
including yesterday, when a missile landed not far from here, we will
continue meeting our responsibilities so that there is a continued and
constant flow of goods into Gaza,” he said.
Kerem Shalom Manager: 'The operation is extremely complex'
To best explain the complexity of the operation, which involves
international support, particularly from the United Nations, Kerem
Shalom crossing manager Ami Shaked noted that the scanner the IDF uses
there was made in China, purchased by the US, flown to Israel on a
Russian plane and installed on Israeli soil to help the Palestinians.
Ayalon reminded the diplomats that Israel left Gaza in 2005, destroying
21 Jewish communities there.
Gaza could have been a pilot program for responsible governance and
economic development, said Ayalon. Instead, Gaza became “a major
Iranian base of terror.”
When looking at the present arrangements at the crossings, Ayalon said,
“It is important to note how things are being arranged so that Hamas is
not in the picture. Hamas is not in control of Gaza, it merely occupies