Envoy: Israel delaying Rafah opening

Wolfensohn: Israel "almost acting as though there has been no withdrawal."

james wolfensohn 88 (photo credit: )
james wolfensohn 88
(photo credit: )
An international Mideast envoy has accused Israel of stalling in talks with the Palestinians on opening a key border crossing for the Gaza Strip and other important issues. The envoy, James Wolfensohn, wrote in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the delays are preventing him from moving on to the larger reconstruction effort needed to revive Gaza's economy following Israel's withdrawal from the impoverished coastal strip in September. "The government of Israel, with its important security concerns, is loath to relinquish control, almost acting as though there has been no withdrawal, delaying making difficult decisions and preferring to take difficult matters back into slow-moving subcommittees," Wolfensohn wrote in the Oct. 17 letter. Israel denied it was foot-dragging, and said it had vital security considerations at heart. In his letter, Wolfensohn complained of delays in reopening the Rafah crossing along the Egyptian border, Gaza's main gateway to the outside world. Israel closed the crossing shortly before the withdrawal, saying it would be closed for six months to allow for new security and customs arrangements. The opening of the crossing is crucial for the economic recovery of Gaza, and the Palestinians and Wolfensohn are pressing to unseal it as quickly as possible.