Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Israel Should Retake Philadelphi

August 13, 2012 3:20 pm 2 comments

IDF forces exit the Gaza Strip as part of Operation Last Dawn, the final stage of the Gaza Disengagement, which occurred in the summer of 2005. Photo: wiki commons.

Last week’s failed attack from the Sinai peninsula, in which terrorists killed Egyptian soldiers, was extraordinary. Terrorists operating out of Gaza do not usually attack Egyptians. They can obtain arms and materiel by sea, but the Israeli navy stops this most of the time.

That leaves the tunnels beneath the Philadelphi Corridor, the narrow strip of southern Gaza that borders Egypt. Israel left the Philadelphi Corridor in 2005 when it unilaterally evacuated Gaza. In the wider interest, as well as its own, it should retake the Philadelphi Corridor with dispatch.

The evidence that it should do so is abundant.

First, there was never a sound reason to leave the corridor. It occurred purely as an unintended byproduct of a flawed Israeli decision to leave Gaza. This unilateral withdrawal was widely criticized by the most senior military and security figures, including the former and then-serving heads of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service), the former IDF chief of staff, deputy chief of staff and chief of IDF Intelligence, and two former heads of the Mossad.

Even so, leaving Philadelphi was not part of the original plan. That outcome was due to unexpectedly strong pressure from the George W. Bush administration, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in particular. In short, even those who supported the unilateral withdrawal did not reckon on relinquishing control of the Gaza/Egypt border.

Second, following the withdrawal, the evidence rapidly accumulated that the system of Egyptian troops, Israeli intelligence and international monitors instituted to replace direct Israeli supervision of the border was no substitute. Instead, there was an exponential increase in the quantity of offensive weaponry entering Gaza from Egypt.

Already in 2006, the former OC Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Doron Almog, said that “there is a need for a permanent IDF presence in the area,” while the late doyen of military analysts, Zeev Schiff, observed that “even though Israel’s security and intelligence services have given the Egyptians a list of the names of those involved in the gun running… in practice nearly nothing is being done to prevent large-scale smuggling through the Philadelphi Route.”

Third, alterations last year to the security annex of the Egyptian/Israeli peace treaty to enable Egypt to deploy a further 2,500 troops in Sinai, in addition to the 700 already on the border, have achieved nothing. The reason is not hard to find and indeed is even more obvious now than when the annex was altered: the Egyptian forces are too much in sympathy with the terrorists and too loath to clash with Hamas to engage in a thorough- going campaign of terrorist suppression.

Egyptian forces will be brutal on terrorists that attack them, but will not interfere with Hamas and other forces bringing weaponry into Gaza.

It is therefore not a matter of troop numbers but of will. Where the efforts to stamp out the traffic in men and arms are tepid, grudging and spasmodic, large battalions will not avail. And nothing – least of all the change of regime in Cairo – suggests that the willpower that was once lacking has been found.

Fourth, the recent murderous attack on Egyptian soldiers underscores all of the foregoing, while providing Israel with an opportune moment to act. The security threats from Gaza to Israel have multiplied. Terrorism emanating from Sinai has also reared its head. Last August, it claimed Israeli lives; this August, Egyptian lives. Border clashes between Israel and Egypt, once a rare occurrence, look like becoming routine. All such incidents carry the risk of putting the nail in the coffin of Egyptian/Israeli peace treaty and even producing a war.

Accordingly, the case is strong: without having to clash with an internationally recognized regime holding authority in Gaza by treaty, without resuming control of Palestinian civilians, and to the mutual benefit of Israel and Egypt – admittedly a benefit Mohamed Morsy and the Brotherhood would rather forfeit – Israel can reoccupy the Philadelphi Corridor. It would then be able, as it once was, to reduce drastically the traffic of men and arms into Gaza.

Egypt will find the means to protest this development, but it is hard to see how it can make much hay of it. In any case, a more tightly sealed Hamas is a weaker Hamas, one for which there are fewer reasons for Egypt to stick out its neck to help. And a Gaza that is deprived of weaponry in time becomes a far more containable and reducible threat to Israel. International criticism of any such Israeli move will be hamstrung for lack of any serviceable rationale justifying its stance. There is little scope to protest cutting off the traffic in terror that helped produce last week’s attack.

The writer is a Fellow in History at Melbourne University and director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Center for Middle East Policy.

This article first appeared in the Jerusalem Post.

2 Comments

  • Why only take Philadelphi? They have probably already smuggled in sufficient firepower to casue some major damage in Israel for a long time. Large parts of Gaza should be retaken.

    • what large parts, evict the vansen and send them back to their respective countries of egypt, jordan and sudan from whence they came. Gaza is not a country but a cesspool of terrorism

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →