Rafah Crossing

The United States has just pressured Israel into transferring the Rafah crossing in Gaza to the control of the Palestinian Authority. This will almost certainly lead to increased weapons-smuggling into Gaza, as even while the Israelis are still there they routinely find sophisticated tunnels through which smugglers transport weapons, explosives, and people.

Is the objective of the exercise to guarantee Israeli security? Or is it to give the Palestinians a state? We cannot do both with any certainty, and which of the two options we prefer will dictate our response to issues like the Rafah crossing. A sovereign state must by definition control its own borders; the present Israeli checkpoints are a clear violation of any forecasted Palestinian sovereignty. Therefore, if the powers-that-be are serious about Palestinian statehood, the borders must eventually revert to Palestinian control.

But doing so threatens Israeli security, does it not? Yes, unless you happen to believe that the key for eventual peace lies in Palestinian statehood. Then the handover takes on the characteristics of an investment, in which you sacrifice security in the short-term for the sake of greater security in the long-term.

The flaw in such an argument, of course, is that it presumes that a sovereign Palestinian state will be a good neighbor. While I would be thrilled if such a thing were to come about, I see no evidence that a free Palestine would be anything other than a forward-base for Hamas, Hizbullah, and al-Qa'ida. But the optimists will not be satisfied until the whole experiment blows up in—well, not their faces exactly (except for the delusional Israeli left), but the faces of the poor schlubs on the front line.

In that sense, perhaps the transfer of the Rafah crossing is a good thing. Either it will work as intended, helping to usher the Palestinians into a new era of peace and goodwill, or it will hasten the day when the failure of Oslo becomes so spectacular, so all-encompassing, that Israel will finally discard its delusions, put away the olive branch and unsheathe the sword.

1 comment:

Mike Maller said...

Things must eventually change.

Israel always lives with it's sword at the ready. This is a function of its history. It cannot permanently live by the grace of its sword, however. If it never reaches a time, even a short one, where it may relax some of its vigilance, eventually it will falter, and fall. I have no doubt that Israel could outlast many enemies in an international game of chicken, but we all have our limits.

The Palestinians have never really tried their hand at administration, nor been tried in an attempt at it. Wanting a state is very different from having one, if only for the challenges that spring up in making it run. What I'm more or less getting at here, is that the smuggling and the troublemaking aren't as easy to keep up when you also have a state to look after.

It gives them something to lose, and maybe it can also give Israel a reason to cuddle the rifle a little less closely when it lays down to sleep at night.

Such is theory, anyway. As for practice....