Israel may totally close Gaza border

May also turn Karni, Erez into int'l border crossings, stop influx of workers.

rafah 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press [file])
rafah 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
Assuming that violence will prevail after the new Palestinian Authority government is formed, the Israeli security establishment is examining options in preparation for the day after. Among them, The Jerusalem Post has learned, are turning the Gaza Strip's Karni and Erez checkpoints into international border crossings, and shutting down the other Gaza checkpoints, as well as gradually cutting off the influx of workers from Gaza. Diplomatic officials, however, said that this option was only being considered in a worst-case scenario.
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In the West Bank, the situation is also far from encouraging, according to various scenarios drawn up by the security establishment. Officials believe that the lack of progress between Israel and the PA regarding the road map will lead to an escalation in Palestinian violence. Security officials remain skeptical about PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's ability to restore law and order and maintain control opposite a Hamas majority. Abbas's statements about maintaining control of the PA security forces are no more than talk, they said, and estimate that he will eventually become Hamas's puppet. "Up until now he has had numerous opportunities to prove himself and has failed. Under a Hamas government, there is no way he will embark on disarming armed terrorists and restoring law and order," one official said. Security officials estimate that a lack of progress will lead to spiraling unrest, forcing Israel to embark on an offensive operation similar to 2002's Operation Defensive Shield. "Israel will no longer be willing to accept talk of any hudna [cease-fire], as it will require the Palestinians to cash checks they are unable to pay for," one official said. "The situation will force Israel to renew blockades and closures on Palestinian cities and villages. It is a situation the Palestinians will have brought upon themselves." Once Israel closes the Gaza border, Israelis will be barred from entering the Strip and will have to travel to Egypt and enter Gaza via the Rafah border crossing. The Karni and Erez checkpoints will become international border crossings and their operating hours will be restricted. Those seeking to pass through them will require a passport and visa, an official said. Gazans seeking to enter Israel will have to travel to Jordan and enter via the Allenby Bridge. This means that they will be forced to undergo a double security screening, once on the Jordanian side and then on the Israeli, the sources said. According to the sources, Israel appears to be leaning toward slowly decreasing the number of Palestinian laborers and merchants permitted to enter Israel until it reaches zero. Vital services such as water and electricity will continue to be provided by Israel until the PA prepares the infrastructure allowing it to provide for itself. Then, the Gaza Strip will be cut off from any ties with Israel, the officials said. "Whatever government is established, it is clear that it will be predominantly Hamas, and scenarios discussed point to an expected renewal of violence. Even at the Rafah border crossing, Israel has no say on who enters or leaves Gaza; the situation remains a free-for-all," one source said. Currently, even when Israeli security officials identify suspected "ticking bombs" passing through the Rafah checkpoint, all that can be done is object to their entry and lodge a complaint with the EU and Egyptian officials there. According to the agreement, at Israel's request, a person can be detained for up to six hours, but it has no control over what happens after that and whether the authorities in control will arrest the person or set him free, officials said. Frustrated over having no control over terrorist suspects entering and leaving Gaza, cutting off all ties with Gaza will mean Israel will no longer be required to deal with the issue, officials said. Describing the current period leading up to the establishment of a new PA government as a period of transition, Israel is not seeking to rock the boat or hamper any future actions it may decide to take once the new government is in office, officials said. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.