Analysis: Rafah deal will only have marginal impact on security


Israel's defense establishment realized a long time ago that getting out of the Gaza Strip would also ultimately mean relinquishing for the first time control over who, and later what, enters the Palestinian-controlled areas. Still, it wasn't until after the Rafah deal was forced on Israel that the penny seemed to drop. In the halls of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv Tuesday, there was an attempt to downplay the apparent Israeli concessions without receiving anything from the Palestinians. "So Israel gave up on any say so about who enters or leaves the Gaza Strip. So what?" was the message. In a tone of sour grapes, officials in the defense establishment said that the entire Rafah deal was more a "show" than negotiations. They maintain that Israel has long known that it would have to give up control of the international border as part of the disengagement. The attempts to keep a semblance of overall rule were part of the Middle East negotiation bazaar. The "concessions" paid were to portray to the Americans a sense of difficulty it was for Israel. Palestinians made no concessions apart from the fact that they now have a camera over their shoulder, and European supervision. But whether or not the monitors have teeth able to bite into the flow of terrorism remains to be seen. Military and security officials point out that the impact on Israeli security of this deal was marginal since the Gaza Strip itself was still sealed off from Israel and the West Bank. The security forces have so far foiled the few attempts to transport human expertise and terrorist muscle from the Gaza Strip through the Sinai and Negev into the West Bank. In the small picture, giving up control of the Rafah crossing is just another price Israel paid for quitting the Gaza Strip. But in the larger picture, it shows the lack of Israeli vision about how exactly it plans to control the Palestinians as they assume greater sovereignty. What would impact directly on Israel's security would be the importation of Katyusha rockets and artillery (such as long range mortars) since they are so far the only weapons that could seriously penetrate the Israeli shield erected around the coastal strip. The danger of the Rafah precedent will be apparent when the Palestinians open their sea and air port where this sort of weapons could be more readily imported. It will be difficult for Israel to insist on a veto here after giving it up on the land crossing to Egypt. Furthermore, the introduction of international supervision and Egypt also makes it all the more difficult to attempt to shut down the crossing should, for example, there be severe terrorist attacks in Israel.