The Philadelphi Corridor
While the Muslim Brotherhood is still settling in in Egypt, Israel must imprint a stable precedent for action and establish a more durable framework for dialogue.
IDF patrol in South [file] Photo: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters
Today Israel’s politicians need to reorient themselves to a re-engagement policy
in Gaza. Overcoming the trauma of disengagement and the world’s condemnation in
the wake of Operation Cast Lead, Middle Israel must come to the realization that
disengaging from Gaza didn’t mean Gaza disengaged from Israel.
will have to come to grips with the basic fact that Hamas is implacable, that no
hudna, no summit and no piece of paper will stop the growing violence we are
witnessing in the south. Retaking the narrative, defeating Hamas and regaining
the initiative requires prudent policy which begins at the source of Israel’s
The Philadelphi bridge of terror, now bustling,
quickly becomes Israel’s first order of business. This bridge must be destroyed,
sending the clearest signal to Egypt that Israel will always act vigorously in
its own defense.
Re-engaging Gaza begins in Philadelphi and ends in
Cairo. Severing Hamas’ weapons supply route will fundamentally alter its
strategic orientation. By asserting control over its entire border, Israel will
be able to set the tone for what is sure to be a very tenuous relationship with
the Muslim Brotherhood now in power. Dividing Egypt from Gaza today will be the
fullest expression Israel can send to this revolutionary government in Egypt
that Israel is interested in stability that is reinforced by prudent security
A TWO-hour drive south of Tel-Aviv lies a 14 km.
of land that sits between Gaza and Egypt, known as the Philadelphi Corridor.
Since 2008, this border zone has been controlled by Hamas, and a limited
Egyptian presence. Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which founded Hamas,
sharing these 14 km. inherently spells disaster for Israel’s long-term
This tiny corridor holds the strategic keys for Israel to
either diminish Hamas’s ability to commit acts of aggression or allow Hamas’s
aggression to continue to continue to determine the facts on the
Looking further down the road, ignoring the strategic
significance of Philadelphi will give Mohamed Mursi a lever of soft power, very
similar to how Iran uses Hezbollah as a proxy, to disrupt, deflect and
destabilize Israel with.
In 2005, Ariel Sharon undertook a sweeping
policy to completely disengage from Gaza. This meant many things; an ethnic
transfer of a multi-generational Jewish population (many still dispossessed),
destruction of costly infrastructure and finally, the removal of its border
guard on the Philadelphia Corridor.
Today in Israel, the disengagement is
understood by the majority to have been a failure. However we consider both the
security and diplomatic implications involved, Israelis now understand that the
Gaza retreat made it far more difficult to control the events in and out of
Gaza. The ethical questions surrounding population transfer remain, debate over
the fallout of the Mavi Marmara incident continues, but there is a general
consensus regarding the failure of pulling out from the Philadelphi corridor,
the results of which Israel’s entire south today suffer.
in Israel today would back a reengagement of Gaza along the lines of retaking
the strategic Philadelphi Corridor.
ISRAEL HAS every right to secure the
The accords it signed with Egypt following its
withdrawal were not an amendment to the Sinai peace agreement. The 1979 peace
deal made clear that Israel maintains control of this particular strip of
As for the understanding with the Palestinian Authority, which was
given custodianship, they are no longer there, are no longer the custodians,
which de-facto nullifies any agreement on the matter between Israel and the PA.
In diplomatic speech, Israel has freedom of action.
Militarily it is
familiar with this terrain, it’s now a question of political will. Retaking the
corridor thus revolves around Israeli leaders’ ability to accept a new reality
and swing into the right frame to engage it.
As for Hamas providing the
moral case for Israel’s return to the Philadelphi, the sheer amount of weapons
which flow through this border crossing, ultimately ending up landing in
townships across southern Israel, is justification enough.
lawlessness in the Sinai peninsula allows for increased weapons smuggling into
Gaza. Some items worth mentioning are taken from huge, unsecured arms depots in
postwar Libya, including advanced SA-24 shoulder-launched ground-to-air
Yoram Cohen, the head of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet),
described the Libyan depots as “the new gate to hell.”
magnitude of instability in Sinai and Gaza, Israel has little choice but to
sever this conduit of terror and retain ultimate control of Gaza’s borders until
such time as a peaceful government can reign responsibly inside
Considering the powerful backlash Israel received when it left
Gaza, when it was accused of causing a humanitarian crisis, Israel’s border
guards must be prepared to administer a border where transit of goods and
services need to be maintained in the face of danger. Outsourcing much of the
administration of the crossing to bonafide international organizations and
legitimate NGOs will significantly reduce friction and deter Hamas freedom of
A RE-ENGAGEMENT policy toward Gaza means taking the battle into
Gaza, thereby forcing Hamas to dedicate its energies to Israel’s military
presence there rather than to Israel’s home front as it does now. It is a far
better scenario for Israel to employ the Iron Dome defending the Philadelphia
Corridor than to defend playgrounds, schools and hospitals.
defeating Hamas, at least as an effective paramilitary agent, can only be
effective if Israel actually controls all Gaza’s access points. Egypt has proven
to be utterly ineffectual, and Israel cannot really believe this situation will
improve under an Islamic Brotherhood-run Egypt. After Mursi consolidates his
power, the opposite will be the case.
For those who truly desire peace,
Israel is the only responsible agent to ensure Gaza becomes a functioning
society as well as a stable, demilitarized territory down the
Before undertaking the aforementioned policy, Israel’s leadership
needs to reorient itself to a new southern Muslim Brotherhood reality. As the
Islamic Brotherhood enters a phase of power consolidation, Israel has a small
window to institute a mode of conduct that the Muslim Brotherhood will have to
adjust to in order to deal effectively with Israel.
While the Muslim
Brotherhood is still settling in in Egypt, Israel must imprint a stable
precedent for action and establish a more durable framework for dialogue. This
small window can best be exploited by re-engaging Gaza, retaking the Philadelphi
Corridor and regaining control of its borders. All of which are essential
ingredients to a new national security posture in a region growing more and more
hostile to Jewish sovereignty.
The writer is the co-founder of the Jewish