Tunnel Rafah 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
The Defense Ministry is growing increasingly frustrated with Egypt's refusal to find a solution for the continuing weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip from Sinai, leading some senior officials to believe that Cairo might just be interested in "seeing Israeli blood spill."
Last month, The Jerusalem Post reported that Egypt had told the ministry it would consider digging a moat along the Philadelphi Corridor separating the Gaza Strip from Sinai. Dozens of tunnels used to smuggle weapons into the Strip run under the corridor.
However, Israel has yet to receive an answer on the moat proposal, and according to officials, despite multiple requests and visits to Cairo by high-ranking government and defense officials, the Egyptians have not changed their conduct along the border.
Some 750 Egyptian border policemen are stationed along the corridor with the sole task of stopping the smuggling.
"If the Egyptians wanted to they could have stopped the smuggling a long time ago already," a government official involved in the talks with Cairo said. "It could be that they just want to see Israeli blood spill."
The official said it was highly unlikely that Egypt would ever agree to construct a moat along the border. He predicted that the border policemen would continue to be ineffective and that the Egyptians would use this as an excuse to demand that Israel allow the deployment of additional troops.
The Sinai border area is a demilitarized zone under the 1979 Camp David peace accord, and further troop deployment there could necessitate modifications to the treaty.
Frustration with Egypt's inability to stop the smuggling is not the only issue causing tension between Jerusalem and Cairo. Recently, a high-level Israeli delegation was scheduled to travel to Egypt for meetings with officials, but the trip was canceled at the last minute.
Israeli officials said the Egyptians decided to cancel the meeting in reaction to the Israeli documentary The Spirit of Shaked, which was aired on Channel 1 in late February and seemed to claim that the IDF had killed 250 Egyptian POWs during the Yom Kippur War.
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, in the US for the annual strategic dialogue, also raised the arms smuggling issue in his meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Prior to his meeting, Mofaz told the Post that Israel needed to start a more aggressive diplomatic campaign to get Egypt to begin taking effective action along the border. Mofaz added that a strong Hamas would also pose a serious threat to Egypt.
"We need to demand that the Egyptians take action against the smugglers," Mofaz said. "By not reducing the smuggling, they are directly contributing to the strengthening of Hamas and the weakening of Fatah."
Referring to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's proposal to deploy a multinational force along the Philadelphi Corridor, Mofaz said that such a move would impair Israel's ability to combat the smuggling.
"What will happen if one day we want to operate along the Philadelphi Corridor and there is a multinational force there?" he asked. History had shown that multinational forces were never effective in areas of active conflict, but only in conducting peacekeeping operations, he said.
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