On Sunday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is to review a crucial Rafah border deal, brokered by international mediator James Wolfensohn that would allow Gazans relatively free movement for the first time and is seen as crucial for the economic development of the impoverished coastal strip.
Sharon is expected to review the proposal and make a final decision, after consulations with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Israel Radio reported Saturday.
The Rafah terminal on the Gaza-Egypt border is a key issues in the upcoming top-level summit between Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel closed the terminal as part of its pullout from Gaza last month. The reopening depends on a new security deal that would address Israeli security concerns but also grant the Palestinians freedom of movement. Israel, which used to operate Rafah, fears that terrorists and weapons will reach Gaza more easily once Israeli inspectors are no longer present.
Under the compromise proposal, Palestinians travelers and goods leaving Gaza would go through Rafah, with European Union inspectors supervising the traffic. Incoming goods would be rerouted through Kerem Shalom, an Israeli-run inspection point on the meeting point of Gaza, Egypt and Israel.
Wolfensohn briefed Abbas on the negotiations Friday, and told him Israel agreed in principle to the presence of foreign inspectors, said a Palestinian official who participated in the talks and spoke on condition of anonymity. Israel wants to have access to the terminal's computers to monitor who is entering and leaving Gaza, the official said.
Wolfensohn told Abbas he hopes to wrap up a Rafah deal by the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in early November, but that talks might require more time because of a series of Jewish holidays in October, the Palestinian official said.