Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza
Rafah border between Egypt and GazaFlash 90

The diplomatic tug-of-war between Israel and Egypt over the opening of the Rafah Crossing has the potential to decide the future of the Gaza Strip and the war altogether.

The question is as follows: Which side will succeed in forcing the other to take responsibility for the residents of the Gaza Strip? Israel has demanded the opening of the Rafah Crossing in one direction, and according to several media outlets, has offered Egypt, along with the United States and the United Arab Emirates, a series of economic benefits in exchange for opening the crossing.

The Egyptians, for their part, refuse to open the crossing even to Gazans who are citizens of foreign countries, and instead calls for sending supposedly “civilian” aid into the Strip to prevent a humanitarian crisis and the wave of refugees that Egypt fears.

Not for nothing, this issue was ostensibly at the center of the Egyptian President’s meetings with international leaders, came up in the Netanyahu-Biden meeting, and received special attention from the King of Jordan.

What is unfolding before us us is a diplomatic “chicken fight,” the outcome of which may decide the entire war and shape the Middle East for years to come.

Many in Israel, from all ends of the political spectrum, understand that even if we eliminate all the tens of thousands of terrorists in the Strip exactly as the Israeli government has stated, Iran is not going anywhere, and, absent a meaningful permanent Israeli or international force on the ground, in a few short years a new Hamas or some other radical regime will be established in the Strip, thus setting up the next inevitable confrontation. Under such conditions, it will be impossible to rehabilitate the towns around Gaza that were ravaged by Hamas’s war crimes.

In light of this reality, the resettlement of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip in Egypt and elsewhere in the Muslim world, should become an overt political goal of Israel. This is the most humane solution to the situation, both for Israel and for the Gazans, many of whom want to emigrate from the Strip anyway and were imprisoned in it by Hamas.

It is worth noting, in addition, that there is nothing that discourages Arab aggression more than the loss of land. Therefore, in addition to the military goal of ending Hamas’ rule with minimum loss of civilian lives, the extension of Israeli sovereignty to all or some of the Gaza Strip would act as a powerful deterrent against Israel’s other enemies which are thinking about attempting to commit another heinous act such as the one we witnessed on the morning of October 7th.

Egypt sees the situation differently.

For the Egyptians, the loss of the Strip would be a strategic problem. For Egypt, Gaza is a forward outpost that keeps the IDF forces occupied in the south, disturbs Israel, and prevents it from strengthening.

Anyone who follows the strengthening of the Egyptian army from visible sources, and sees the huge bridging array it is building above and below the Suez Canal, and the military procurement in the tens of billions of dollars in all army arrays: sea, land, air and even satellites, understands that Egypt sees Israel as its main military adversary, in spite of the peace agreement.

Most of Egypt’s military exercises are directed against Israel, and that is why we can see reports, in the open media, about a long series of Egyptian violations of the peace agreement, which limits the deployment of Egyptian forces in Sinai, under the pretext of a war against ISIS.

For many years, Egypt has allowed the strengthening of terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, during both the Mubarak and Morsi eras. During the el-Sisi era, Egypt increased its supervision and control over what entered the Strip while building a massive barrier on the Egyptian side of the border. All this is just an indication that what did enter, apparently entered with an Egyptian “blind eye”.

Israel needs to think strategically about how to encourage Gazans to make their way into Egypt.

Israel must take advantage of the severe economic crisis in Egypt in favor of organizing international aid to the country in exchange for the absorption of all or some of the Gazans. Just recently, the Moody’s rating agency lowered the Egypt’s credit rating from B3 to Caa1. Indeed, Egypt is on the verge of insolvency, which may endanger the stability of the regime in the near term.

In the first stage, Israel needs to increase the humanitarian pressure on the Gaza Strip so that eventually hundreds of thousands of hungry and thirsty Gazans will break through the Rafah Crossing.

In the second stage, when Egypt will face the finished fact of an influx of refugees in its territory, it is recommended that Israel and the US organize the international community, UNRWA, and the International Monetary Fund, to flow economic aid to Egypt, to enable the absorption of some of the Gazans in Egypt.

It is important to understand: The Gazans whom Hamas imprisoned in the Strip, very much want to emigrate from it. Turkey, which is ready to take them in, is a very popular destination, as is Europe, which is obliged to take in those to whom UNRWA has granted a refugee certificate. The percentage of the Gazan population that will eventually be taken in by Egypt is lower than the country’s annual birth rate, which is over 2 million babies a year.

And in relation to housing solutions - in Egypt there is a stock of vacant apartments for immediate occupancy of at least 2 million apartments, a result of the regime’s planned economy.

Success in the diplomatic struggle with Egypt over the opening of the Rafah Crossing will shorten the war and therefore reduce the risk of opening more fronts.

Emptying the population of its Arab inhabitants while applying Israeli sovereignty means an overwhelming victory that will restore deterrence in all sectors, strengthen the Abraham Accords, and bring peace with Saudi Arabia.

In the Middle East, one does business only with the powerful, and Israel must recognize the opportunity to project power, while changing the Middle East for generations.