Here’s an urgent request for the Palestinian delegation in Cairo: Don’t let the Israelis pull the wool over your eyes and the whole world’s eyes with the arrangements to operate the Rafah border pass, the color of uniforms worn by Mahmoud Abbas’ soldiers, the number of units and the manner of their salute.
At this point don’t insist on an airport and seaport in Gaza. Focus on rehabilitating the essential, natural, logical connection between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Insist that the free movement of Palestinians (not only a few senior officials and traders) between them is resumed immediately. This should be your main mission.
Israel’s establishment, commentators and most of its public see the demand to connect the Strip and West Bank as “ridiculous.” This word embodies Israel’s aggressive arrogance. Egypt is justly afraid of Israel’s intention to push the Strip and its residents and problems back to it. Take advantage of that fear. This is what Israel has been striving toward since 1990 — to create Palestinian enclaves, isolate them and turn the Strip into a separate political entity.
Israel’s success has so far appeared considerable, aided by the sectarian selfishness of the Palestinian organizations. The Palestinian leaderships have neglected the basic demand to respect the right for freedom of movement. The Palestinian Authority’s senior officials made do with the privileges that enabled them to go through the Erez checkpoint. The leaders of the political-religious movement forgot the Erez checkpoint and the West Bank because they knew they wouldn’t get permits, and if they did, they’d be arrested.
The reconciliation government that was formed in Abbas’ image — bereft of inspiration and voluntarily paralyzed — nonetheless shows that Israel’s success in the separation has cracked. The rupture between the Strip and the West Bank is revocable.
This is the idea that must direct you in Cairo and guide all the Palestinians and those who oppose the occupation. Did anyone believe any Palestinian organization could plan a military campaign that would so confuse the No. 1 drone exporter? Who imagined that a Palestinian organization could learn from its mistakes in 2008-2009 and defy Israel’s military power?
All your military surprises, Hamas, are worthless unless they are converted to a change in your civilian thinking. You rediscovered the West Bank after your channels to Egypt were blocked. So you fled to the reconciliation government. Israel’s wholesale killing of Gaza residents returned them to the awareness of the PLO and West Bank Palestinians. This is the moment to demand: Open the Erez Crossing. Israel will, as usual, scream “SOS security.” Let it scream. There cannot be security for Israelis as long as they do not recognize Palestinians’ right to life, and to live in dignity.
PLO delegates, Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives: Rectify the criminal negligence that characterized your treatment of Gaza residents. Demand that the world pay the bill for its declarations. Pull out all the World Bank, IMF and EU reports. There’s no rebuilding the Palestinian economy, no rebuilding of Gaza — no life at all — unless people and merchandise can move freely. This includes exports from Gaza, studying in universities, praying in Al-Aqsa and eating hummus in the Old City. It includes a trip from Nablus to the Beit Lahia beach.
The Gaza Strip will cease to be a large concentration camp only when it and the West Bank are again an hour’s drive apart, 32 shekels there and back, with a discount for children and large families.