This weekend, Egypt reopened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza after four years of almost total closure. Amid much talk about the move’s meaning for Gaza’s quality of life, for Israel’s security, and for the character of Egypt’s new government, perhaps its most significant element has been overlooked. A binding international agreement, brokered by the U.S. and signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, has just effectively been torn up.
The 2005 agreement laid down detailed provisions for how Gaza’s border crossings would be run following Israel’s withdrawal from the territory earlier that year. From a security standpoint, Israel won’t mourn its demise, as the European monitors stationed at Rafah quickly proved useless at preventing the passage of terrorists and contraband.
But at a time when the world is demanding that Israel make far more dangerous territorial concessions in the West Bank in exchange for yet another piece of paper containing “robust” security provisions (to quote President Barack Obama), it’s worth noting just how flimsy such pieces of paper are. In a mere six years, Hamas has replaced the PA as Gaza’s landlord and declined to honor the latter’s promises, while Egypt’s new government has scrapped former President Hosni Mubarak’s policy of upholding the agreement even though he wasn’t a formal signatory. And presto! there goes the agreement.
Nor is this the only international agreement Israel has recently seen torn up. The 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, as 60 prominent jurists recently noted in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, states explicitly that “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” The PA has publicly announced its intention to violate that one by asking the UN General Assembly to recognize those territories as a Palestinian state in September.
And then there’s UN Security Council Resolution 242, which explicitly required an Israeli withdrawal only from “territories” captured in 1967, not “the territories” or “all the territories.” As Lord Caradon, the British UN ambassador who drafted it, explained, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.” America’s UN ambassador at the time, Arthur Goldberg, similarly said the two omitted words “were not accidental . . . the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.” Yet the entire world has now adopted the 1967 lines as the basis for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.
That same world has offered no protest at the Rafah agreement’s demise. The European Union, for instance, ”welcomed” the crossing’s agreement-breaking reopening. And most of the world also plans to back the PA’s agreement-breaking quest for statehood in September.
Which leaves only one question. When the world is so patently unwilling to insist that previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements be honored, why does it still think Israel should entrust its security to yet another one?