Israel, PA Reach Rafah Crossing Agreement

U.S. State Sec'y Rice extended her visit in Israel to exert extra pressure on Israel to drop its demands regarding the opening of the Rafah crossing - and the agreement was reached this morning.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 10:30

Rice met with Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz this morning, and the two closed the final details of the deal. The crossing is now scheduled to be opened by Nov. 25.

Israel had been demanding to receive, in real-time or near that, video images of the goings-on at the crossing between Gaza and Egypt. This, in order to monitor those who enter and exit Gaza - including what is expected to be a significant number of terrorist elements.

Under the agreed terms, the video images will be tranferred to a control center manned by Israeli, PA, and European personnel. The control center will be at one of the other Gaza crossings.

Israel is concerned both about those who enter Gaza with terrorist intentions and/or weapons, and those who leave Gaza with the intention of entering Israel via the Sinai and carrying out attacks. Six weeks ago, a terrorist cell was discovered in the Negev, having entered via Sinai on its way to Jenin.

Rice postponed a state visit to Korea for the purpose of remaining in Israel and ensuring the finalizing of the agreement. Operating under the "if not now, then when?" principle, she was concerned that the political instability in Israel might hold up an agreement indefinitely.

The agreement also stipulates a bus passage for Arabs between Gaza and Judea.

The Quartert was hoping to include in the deal an agreement on the other Gaza crossings, as well as the removal of 125 checkpoints throughout Judea and Samaria.

Yesterday afternoon (Monday), Rice alluded to the pressures she was exerting when she said, "With a little more creative effort, we will be very close to the agreement, which is almost ready."

Commentator Danny Reshef, writing for the NFC website, said that Israel's insistence on monitoring the crossing is unnecessary and even harmful:

"It is doubtful whether anyone in Israel really believes that the smuggling tunnels under Rafah have ceased operating... [or that] the Egyptian Border Patrol is immune to bribery... [or that the terrorists in the Sinai] really changes the Palestinian terror capabilities in Gaza, which are already replete with bomb 'engineers,' rockets, etc. ... We decided to leave Gaza and leave the Palestinians on their own - and we must adhere to this decision despite the many dangers... Israel's national interest is to totally disengage from the lives of the Palestinians in Gaza... This national interest we are subjugating to some Shabak [GSS] cameras that, even as these lines are being written, the Palestinian terrorists have found 1,000 ways to make almost obsolete."

A senior IDF intelligence officer told Ynet, however, that Israel's insistence on proper security precautions into Gaza is "substantial and important." The Rafah Crossing is becoming a dangerous place, he said, adding that IDF Intelligence has evaluations regarding terrorist elements that would take advantage of the unsupervised crossing. He said that these groups could significantly increase the terrorist capabilities currently in Gaza.

"With all due respect to the Egyptians and Palestinians," the officer said, "we have to rely only on ourselves. Even if some European will be there to supervise, he won't jump on Muhammad and arrest him as he crosses there. He won't even recognize the Muhammad..."


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