Analysis: Proving the Egyptian alternative

Without even knowing it, Egypt helped Israel on Wednesday to complete the disengagement from Gaza.

Rafah broken wall 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Rafah broken wall 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Without even knowing it, Egypt helped Israel on Wednesday to complete the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. While the 2005 withdrawal included the evacuation of Israeli military personnel and settlers from the Palestinian territory, Israel and Gaza have remained interlocked ever since due to the Palestinian dependency on Israel for electricity, food, medical supplies and fuel. Egypt's decision to open the Rafah crossing allowed around 300,000 Palestinians - almost a quarter of the entire population of Gaza - to enter Egypt and stock up on goods made scarce by the blockade Israel imposed on the Strip following last week's Kassam bombardment of Sderot. While Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he opened the crossing for Gazans since they were "starving due to the Israeli siege," what he did proved to the world that his country is perfectly capable of caring for the Palestinians when it comes to food and medical care. On Wednesday afternoon, senior defense officials responsible for overseeing the crossings into the Gaza Strip and supplying the Palestinians there, convened to analyze the consequences of Mubarak's decision. "By going into Egypt, Hamas loses its claim that it is under siege by Israel," one of the participants said. The idea to completely shut down the crossings between Israel and Gaza is not new and has been debated in various forums within the Israeli defense establishment over the past year. Proponents of the proposal argued it would grant Israel more freedom to operate against the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. The opponents claimed it would bring Israel an unprecedented level of international criticism. Wednesday's events and particularly Mubarak's decision to open a floodgate into his country for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, demonstrated that there are alternatives to Israel when it comes to being Gaza's provider. Up until the restrictions clamped on the crossings late last week, Israel was responsible for facilitating the daily transfer of food, medical supplies, fuel, gasoline and other necessities into Gaza. Israel was responsible for coordinating the transfer of the goods with the various international organizations - UNRWA, United Nations World Food Program, World Health Organization and more. Israel was also responsible for allowing sick Palestinians to travel to Israeli hospitals for treatment and for supplying more than 70 percent of Gaza's electricity. All of this was being done while Kassam rockets pounded the western Negev. Egypt's decision to open its border shows that Israel has an alternative.