Home inSight Israel Secured Food Aid to the Palestinians — Not the US or...

Israel Secured Food Aid to the Palestinians — Not the US or Egypt

Shoshana Bryen
SOURCEThe Algemeiner
Trucks of humanitarian assistance preparing to enter Gaza. (Photo: COGAT)

It turns out that there are two ways to open the humanitarian corridor from Rafah through Egypt, which Egypt nailed shut in early November.

One is to beg and plead with Cairo. The other is to let the IDF evacuate the Palestinian civilians in Rafah and take military command of the Gaza side of the crossing.

The first failed. The Wall Street Journal reported in February that Egyptian officials threatened the Egypt-Israel peace treaty could be suspended if Israel entered Rafah, or if any of Rafah’s refugees moved into Sinai.

Preventing refugees in a war zone from finding safe haven — even temporarily — is, if not a war crime, then totally uncivilized. Keep in mind that northern Sinai is almost entirely empty, and a temporary military facility could easily have been established there. Even NPR remarked on it.

Almost entirely empty?” Well, except for Bedouins and ISIS.

ISIS? Yes. Israel has worked with Egypt for years to thwart ISIS and secure the Israel/Egypt border, including allowing Egypt to bring forces in excess of those permitted by the Camp David Accords. In 2019, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi told CBS News that cooperation between Cairo and Jerusalem was excellent.

We have a wide range of cooperation with the Israelis,” he said.

So what happened, and what does that have to do with closing Rafah?

Israel has discovered nearly 700 tunnels inside Gaza, of which 70 thus far are known to go into Sinai. Look backward from there.

It seems that Egypt, much as it despises the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is the Palestinian branch, couldn’t refuse the benefits associated with the subway-sized tunnels from Gaza into Egypt. And those benefits are tied to Iran.

The Islamic Republic, the instigator of all chaos in the region, used the tunnels to ferry arms, ammunition, rocket factory parts, money, and food into Gaza for Hamas. Rafah also provided an exit for Hamas members who needed to escape.

As a side gig — as the kids say — other Palestinians who wanted to leave Gaza could get a visa through Egypt for about $10,000. In 2016, Al Jazeera reported that brokers were taking as much as 20 percent off the top. That helped to keep the border guards on the right side of the operation.

After hostage negotiations in Qatar stalled, Egypt agreed to chair new sessions in Cairo. The US was pleased.

At the same time — or because of that– the US tried to threaten and cajole Israel into ending the war without defeating Hamas, or entering Rafah. President Joe Biden said. “If they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying weapons.”

The Washington Post reported that the administration withheld intelligence information from Israel and only offered to “help the Israeli military pinpoint the location of Hamas leaders and find the group’s hidden tunnels” — if Israel agreed to limit the incursion. The Post characterized the information as “valuable.”  An uproar about withholding from Israel to benefit Hamas caused the administration to backtrack, much as it did when it delayed precision arms shipments to Israel.

But administration officials continued to insist that Israel could not achieve success in Rafah. National security adviser Jake Sullivan opined, “A major ground operation [in Rafah] would be a mistake. … [T]he key goals Israel wants to achieve in Rafah can be done by other means.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a definitive position speaking on Face The Nation on May 12. While Israel may have some military success in Rafah, he said, it will be one that “is not durable, one that’s not sustainable. And they will be left holding the bag on an enduring insurgency because a lot of armed Hamas will be left no matter what they do in Rafah.”

After realizing that Israel was going to take the crossing regardless of the American position, the US turned to Egypt, pleading for supplies to enter, but Cairo wouldn’t budge. Afraid that Israel would expose the whole operation, Egypt even more firmly closed the border, leaving aid trucks “rotting in the sun,” according to Reuters.

That changed when Israel successfully moved more than 900,000 Palestinians out of Rafah and took control of the crossing.

That was the second option.

Egypt has now agreed to move the food through Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing, not the normal Rafah crossing, which is still closed. But for the people of Gaza, it’s a blessing.

How the Israeli operation Rafah plays out and how Israel ensures the security of its border and of its citizens remains unclear. What is clear, however, is that the American administration’s belief that Israel could not evacuate Rafah civilians safely and take the corridor was wrong. It is also clear that the administration’s power of persuasion with the Egyptian government is limited.

And, finally, it is clear that the Biden people are taking full credit for opening the gates of Rafah.