Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
The Chimera Of Security
Less than two months before the disengagement, a vital security question remains unanswered: Who will control Gaza\'s borders after the withdrawal? Two proposals are currently under discussion, but unfortunately, both are delusional.
The first, backed by the Palestinians and the international community, would give the Palestinian Authority full control over the Gazan-Egyptian border. This position was outlined in a report submitted two weeks ago by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Israel\'s concern is that this would enable a massive flow of arms, and particularly high-trajectory weapons such as rockets, into Gaza. The report\'s response, essentially, is that Israel should trust the PA to prevent such smuggling. While it does pay lip service to Israel\'s fears by proposing mechanisms for Israeli monitoring, even these boil down to trusting the PA. Linking Israeli and Palestinian border control computers, for instance, would not reveal contraband unless PA inspectors record it.
Given that most Palestinian opinion leaders, as Haaretz Arab affairs editor Danny Rubinstein noted on Monday, expect the intifada to resume later this year, relying on the PA would seem the height of folly. Yet, even discounting this prediction, the PA\'s record in the six months since Mahmoud Abbas took power is sufficient to make such reliance ludicrous.
Not only has Abbas failed to collect weapons from the terrorist organizations; recently, he even recanted his pledge to do so. Moreover, he has enrolled dozens of members of terrorist groups in the PA security services, thereby allowing them to possess weapons legally – and making them the people Israel would be relying on to stop the terrorists\' arms smuggling.
Abbas has also refused to arrest even active terrorists. Several days ago, for instance, Israel informed the PA, and Abbas himself, of an intelligence tip about a would-be suicide bomber. Yet the woman, whose professed target was a hospital, remained at large until she tried to enter Israel on Monday – when Israel nabbed her.
Similarly, when PA troops caught a Hamas operative last month with a Kassam rocket launcher in his car, near the site where Kassams had been fired at Sderot minutes earlier, he was released on the grounds that no one saw him fire the weapon.
In the PA, Kassam launchers are evidently not illegal weapons whose possession is a crime. And the one time Abbas actually ordered an arrest – of four men involved in January\'s suicide bombing in Tel Aviv – he released them five months later instead of trying them.
THIS INACTION has led to virtually daily attacks in recent weeks. Just consider the past few days: Tuesday, there was an attempted stabbing, and mortars and Kassams were fired at Gaza settlements. Monday, an Israeli civilian was killed in the West Bank and the hospital bomber tried to enter Israel. Sunday, a soldier was killed in Gaza and a Palestinian tried to smuggle four pipe bombs through a West Bank checkpoint. Saturday, Palestinians shot at Kfar Darom and fired mortars at other Gaza settlements. Thursday and Friday, Kassams were fired at Sderot. And previous weeks have differed only in that the terrorists scored fewer successes. Yet Abbas\'s sole response has been to declare, once again, that he "will not allow" such behavior.
Given this record, relying on the PA to halt arms smuggling into Gaza would be bad enough. But the IMF-World Bank proposal goes even further: It also demands that the Gaza-Israel customs union, which is supposed to enable the free flow of goods between the two, remain intact post-disengagement. In other words, Israel should also facilitate weapons smuggling from Gaza into Israel by eschewing standard customs checks!
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon understands that PA control of the Gazan-Egyptian border would be disastrous. Yet his counter-proposal – giving Egypt sole control – is equally delusional. Egypt already controls one side of this border, but has yet to lift a finger to prevent arms smuggling across it.
Sharon\'s response is that Israeli-Egyptian relations have warmed recently, and therefore, Egypt will finally get serious. Yet all the evidence indicates that Egypt remains as hostile as ever.
CONSIDER, FOR instance, the fact that after 25 years of peace, Egyptians still need a special permit from their security services to enter Israel – a fact that goes a long way toward explaining why traffic between Israel and Egypt is strictly one-way. Yet last Wednesday, when Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom once again asked that this restriction be canceled, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman offered no more than vague promises to "try" to "ease" the problem.
Then there was Egypt\'s refusal to let playwright Ali Salem come to Israel last month to receive an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University. No explanation was given; Egyptian officials simply refused to allow him through the Taba border crossing. Then, when he tried to fly from Cairo instead, they refused to let him on the plane.
Or consider a new Egyptian television series dealing with the fictional adventures of an Egyptian spy from 1967-1973. Egyptian television critics have commented that unlike previous such series, this one includes some good Jews – "peace-loving Israelis who oppose Zionism." In other words, after 25 years of peace, Egypt\'s cultural elite still maintains that the only good Jew is one who wants the Jewish state to disappear.
As Haaretz\'s Aluf Benn noted (May 10), this is equally true of Egypt\'s political elite: Even Osama el-Baz, President Hosni Mubarak\'s long-time adviser and a staunch supporter of Egyptian-Israeli peace, insists that ultimately, Israel must stop being a Jewish state and become a "state of all its citizens."
Thus, whichever border control proposal is adopted, Israel will effectively be entrusting its security to people with a demonstrated lack of interest in providing it. I\'m still waiting for Sharon to explain just how that is supposed to make Israel more secure.