The Jordan Times (Editorial)
January 7, 2010 - 1:00am

The situation at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt is becoming dangerous.

Yesterday, an Egyptian border guard was killed by what officials say was sniper fire from the Palestinian side.

The shooting reportedly came after Egyptian guards opened fire at Palestinian demonstrators protesting the delay of an aid convoy, which is being held up in Egypt. The aid convoy follows another multinational popular effort to break the siege on Gaza, which was refused permission to travel to Gaza by the Egyptian authorities.

It is clear that Cairo has a major problem on its hands. Gaza’s 1.5 million people are increasingly desperate to break their isolation. As Israel’s brutal onslaught last year proved, the Israeli army is ruthless and has no qualms about gunning down innocent men, women andchildren. Salvation for Gazans will not lie that way. Egypt is the only other outlet.

However, opening the border is hugely problematic, and not only for Egypt. Gaza remains occupied territory. Israel controls the borders as well as the air and sea space. Opening one side of Gaza, and then only a land border, questionably leaves the status of Gaza open for discussion. This would have major ramifications for the status and wholeness of the Palestinian territories.

There is an argument that Gaza could be called liberated territory. But there is not yet international consensus on recognising any sovereign Palestinian state, so it is not clear what that would mean. And since Israel continues to violate the borders, sea and airspace of Gaza, clearly that country does not consider Gaza anything other than under its control; to do with as it pleases.

Clearly, Egypt does not want to resume any responsible role for Gaza, which is what would happen if the status of Gaza is not resolved before the border is opened. But in order to do this, Arab countries need to push for an international effort to determine such status and, most importantly, Palestinians need to agree for themselves what status they want to confer upon Gaza. Palestinian unity is not just a Palestinian priority: it is a regional one.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in Gaza must be addressed urgently, regardless of politics. Here, perhaps Egypt could seek the assistance of the United Nations to patrol the border, thus providing international guarantees while enabling Gazans to begin to rebuild their shattered lives.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017