Events in Rafah erode Israel's unilateral option

Alongside the security dangers, the breach of the border between Egypt and Gaza has generated political dangers for Israel, primarily the erosion of its unilateral option.

Last week's breach in the border between Egypt and Gaza requires the re-evaluation of relations between Israel and the Palestinians.

It seems that Israel's main concern relates to the security implications of the breach such as the smuggling of weapons, the expansion of the terrorist infrastructure and the infiltration of terrorist groups into Israel. However, in addition to the security implications, there are several political implications which have not yet been examined, primarily the erosion of Israel's unilateral option.

After the Disengagement from Gaza (8/05), Israel signed the Agreement on Movement and Access (Rafah Agreement) (11/05). Although the agreement was never fully implemented, Israel preserved the right to order the closing of the border for security reasons. The recent collapse of the Egyptian - Gaza border has eroded this Israeli security 'monopoly' and raises questions over whether a viable unilateral Israeli option for withdrawing from the West Bank still exists. Due to recent events, Israel will now find it difficult to withdraw from the West Bank before ensuring its security interests are met.

The consequences of the events in Rafah are also relevant to the current negotiation process between Israel and the PLO. Although separating from the Palestinians is an essential Israeli interest, the loss of Israel's unilateral option to end occupation (either de jure or de facto) increases the Palestinians' strategic leverage and strengthens their negotiation position. This could ultimately lead to the erosion of some of Israel's security demands, primarily its call for a demilitarized Palestinian state.

(See also Hybrid of Unilateralism and Negotiations )Essential