ARAB AND WORLD

Thu 23 May 2024 9:35 pm - Jerusalem Time

Egypt-Israel tensions revive international proposals to manage the Rafah crossing

Proposals continue regarding the future management of the Rafah Crossing from the Palestinian side, in light of Cairo’s rejection of Israel’s control over it, the most recent of which is an American move to seek the assistance of a European organization as a third party.


Washington's moves with a third party are reviving future scenarios for managing the crossing, but a former diplomat and expert sets two preconditions for its success: Israel's withdrawal from the crossing, and a temporary or permanent truce in the Gaza Strip.


The Rafah crossing is a major corridor on the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. It allows the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza and the exit of travelers and injured people from the Strip. It is an important economic and security artery.


In 2005, following an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian side of the crossing was subject to an agreement allowing a Palestinian presence and European oversight, before Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, and the Europeans withdrew.


On May 7, Israel regained control of the crossing and closed it, holding Egypt responsible for the closure and failure to pass aid. However, after the control, Egypt refused to coordinate with Israel regarding the crossing, as it did not legitimize the existence of the occupation, and Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri recently held Tel Aviv responsible for the crossing’s cessation of operation.


Yesterday, the American newspaper "Politico" quoted a White House official as saying that President Joe Biden had been holding discussions for weeks with an organization affiliated with the European Union, to assume responsibility for managing the crossing from the Palestinian side, in light of its closure, and Egypt's refusal to coordinate.


The United States proposes to bring in a neutral third party, which is the European Union Border Assistance Mission in Rafah, which previously worked at the crossing in 2005, and suspended its operations in 2007 after Hamas took control.


This was not the latest move. On May 16, two Egyptian security sources told Reuters that Cairo rejected an Israeli proposal to coordinate between the two countries to reopen the Rafah crossing and manage its future operations, and informed them that the crossing should be managed by Palestinian authorities only.


On May 7, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that a private American security company would take over the management of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt after the end of the Israeli military operation in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.


Ambassador Hussein Haridi, the former Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister, in his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, expressed his concern about the scenario of the American search for a third party to manage the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, and described it as “back-door intervention to support Tel Aviv’s demands.”


The Egyptian diplomat does not rule out that “we will be surprised by Israelis holding passports from other countries, among those managing the crossing,” adding: “Egypt will not accept this.”


The acceptable scenario that represents the Egyptian point of view, according to the former Egyptian diplomat, is a return to the crossings agreement signed in 2005, which consists of the Palestinian Authority managing the crossing on its part, with European oversight.


He added, "But if Egypt accepted the scenario of removing the Palestinian authorities in favor of a third party, Tel Aviv would go further and demand that the Palestinian authorities also be removed from ruling Gaza."


The former Egyptian diplomat refers to another scenario in this regard, which is Egypt’s insistence that there is no current or future Israeli administration for the crossing, and says: “This administration is a threat to Egyptian national security and Cairo will not accept it at all.”


In turn, the Egyptian expert in military and strategic affairs, Samir Ragheb, said: “Egypt will accept the presence of a neutral third party in the event of the presence of a main Palestinian party, similar to the crossings agreement in 2005, which was under European supervision, and Egypt will reject the presence of any Israeli party at the crossing in any way.” conditions, even if he had European observers with him.”


Talking about a European civil society organization working with the Palestinian authorities could be an acceptable idea and a scenario on the table, with an Israeli withdrawal from the crossing as a basic condition, Ragheb adds.


The Egyptian expert confirms that “Egypt will not back down from its rejection of the presence of the Israeli side at the crossing, but will accept neutral alternatives, not including security companies,” explaining this: “The companies will be subject to the financier, and perhaps the financier is American or Israeli, and this is unacceptable.”


Other than these scenarios, the Egyptian military expert expects the possibility that Israel will demolish the crossings agreement and search for a new expanded agreement that includes the Philadelphia axis and the management of the crossing. He says: “This is all subject to Egyptian estimates and according to what is proposed, but Egypt is always committed to the definitions of its interests.”


He goes on to say: "The acceptable scenarios will be put forward for implementation before the day following the end of the war in Gaza. As for after the war, there are other arrangements, including the Palestinian Authority, that will be taken into account with any truce agreement that will be reached or a final agreement for a ceasefire in the Strip."

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Egypt-Israel tensions revive international proposals to manage the Rafah crossing

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