Under intense American pressure, Israel recently signed with the Palestinian Authority a new deal that effectively ensures a steady flow of weapons and terrorists into Gaza. From there they will make their way to the West Bank, thereby guaranteeing that the “cycle of violence” will continue far into the future on terms detrimental to Israel.
The architect of the deal is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice came to Israel after suffering a defeat at the conference on Arab democracy in Bahrain. Egypt had blocked a draft declaration by insisting that Arab governments keep control over money transfers to NGOs and democracy groups. But while Egypt is hard to bully and insists on what it considers its interests, Israel under Prime Minister Sharon and Defense Minister Mofaz—even after the disengagement that was supposed to give Israel “moral capital” to resist further American pressure—easily submits to the will of the U.S. That works to America’s advantage: When meeting with Arab recalcitrance, the U.S. can always save face with a few shoves of its "sole democratic ally."
By all accounts, Rice had no patience for any further haggling on security matters. She demanded a deal posthaste. She even stayed one extra night in Israel and got the deal by Tuesday, before heading off to join President Bush in South Korea. Nothing that has happened in Israel in recent years seems to have convinced her or the president that Israeli security concerns are anything more than tiresome nuisances. Nor has anything dissuaded Sharon and Mofaz that bowing to the U.S. and propitiating it is, as always, the cardinal Israeli interest, easily trumping sanity in the security domain.
It goes nearly without saying that Israel’s autonomy as a sovereign and democratic state is irrelevant when there are larger matters at stake. Matters such as demonstrating America’s ability to keep the Palestinians happy. The new agreement itself makes clear how little, more than half a century after securing its independence, Israel has been able to establish, even in the eyes of its U.S. ally, that it is a genuinely sovereign entity entitled to all the security prerogatives this entails.
That much is evident in the new agreement. It contains astonishing clauses that compromise Israel’s basic rights in a way that no country, democratic or non-democratic, would tolerate—except, that is, for a small, outcast Jewish state dependent on a single powerful supporter.
For instance, at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, incoming traffic of Palestinians and others from the Sinai is to be “monitored” by Egyptians on the one side and Palestinians on the other. Monitoring the monitors will be a contingent of EU personnel who, as EU officials have already made clear, will not serve as policemen, border guards, or customs officers; this will leave them little role except as passive rubber stamps. Considering that the EU has consistently backed Palestinian terror against Israel since the 1970s, one could not rationally have expected anything better.
The agreement also calls into question, yet again, the wisdom of Israel’s recent disengagement from Gaza. Back in the days when the disengagement was being sold as a clever maneuver, whereby Israel would leave Gaza but seal it off as a security threat, the assumption was that Israel would maintain a presence on the Gaza-Sinai border—an obvious conduit for terrorists and weapons. This was a reasonable demand given that the Palestinian Authority, of which Gaza is part, is not a sovereign entity, but is anarchic, infested with terrorists, and has shown more than a little hostility to Israel.
But now that the Palestinians and Egyptians, with American backing, have stipulated that not a single Israeli security operative is to remain on this border, Israel has settled, instead, for surveillance cameras at the Rafah terminal. These will send video feeds to a liaison office at Kerem Shalom, which is in Israeli territory south of Gaza. Incredibly, the liaison office—to repeat, on sovereign, supposedly undisputed Israeli territory—is to be staffed by Israeli as well as European and Palestinian personnel. In this theater of the absurd, Israel not only loses the right to a presence on the Gaza-Sinai border; it also loses the right independently to monitor the monitors by video feed on its own territory without being monitored there, in turn, by other Europeans and Palestinians!
Then there is the matter of the Karni crossing from Gaza to Israel. Since the disengagement, 35 Gazan export trucks have gone through it daily. Under the agreement, this will increase to 150 by the end of this year, and at least 400 by the end of 2006. But the agreement also stipulates that bus convoys, by December 15, and truck convoys, by a month later, will pass through Karni to the West Bank. “The result is easy to see,” former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday, noting that “Kassam rockets and mortars will be transported through Judea and Samaria to be launched at Israel. . . . The biggest danger is that the Palestinians would be able to transfer the Strella [anti-aircraft] missiles, which are already in Gaza, to the area overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport and threaten planes landing and taking off.”
He went on to note what would seem obvious to anyone genuinely concerned with Israel’s well-being (whether or not that includes the Bush administration): “You can't treat the Palestinian Authority like a properly run state. It’s a failing regime that does not fight terror, and the security ring around it cannot be loosened.” Indeed, it cannot be. But it has been. And not just loosened, but almost obliterated. Starting next month, each day dozens of buses and trucks will be crossing sovereign Israeli territory, carrying people and weapons from one part of an anti-Israeli terror entity to the other.
The problems with the Rafah and Karni crossings, however, pale in insignificance compared to the agreement’s coup de grace: Israel has given the Palestinians a green light to start building a seaport in Gaza. Back in the misty past, less than four years ago, Israel created some hoopla over its capture of the Karine A cargo ship, which was attempting to smuggle a large consignment of weapons and explosives from Iran to Gaza. It need not have bothered. Under the new deal, the Karine A will be a harmless fishing boat compared to the munitions, certain to include long-range missiles sooner or later, that the Palestinians will be able to bring in routinely.
In the short term, the U.S. may feel that it has given the Palestinians breathing space and shored up its faltering image in the Arab world. In the long term, the new agreement advances the cause of Islamic terror and puts a loyal but obsequious ally in great jeopardy.
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