Sometimes, Israelis must shake their head in wonder at the folly of their friends and enemies alike. After Egypt failed to close the Rafah crossing that Hamas blew open last week, the US, EU, and Egypt put their heads together — and decided to let Mahmoud Abbas give it a try:
Israel will not stand in the way of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas taking control of Gaza’s breached border with Egypt as part of a deal to sideline Hamas Islamists who rule the enclave, officials said on Tuesday.
But it is unclear how Abbas, the Fatah leader, would be able to assert control over the crossing with Egypt given opposition from Hamas, which seized the coastal territory in June and blasted open the Egyptian border wall last week in defiance of an Israeli-led blockade.
Tensions along Gaza’s frontier with Egypt flared anew on Tuesday when Egyptian forces tried to prevent Palestinian vehicles from driving into Egypt.
Hamas gunmen intervened, firing into the air to clear the way for cars to pass. They threatened to blast new holes in the border if Egyptian forces refused to back down.
This had to be a red-letter day for Egypt and its security forces. Hamas gunmen fire in the air, and all Egypt can do is hit reverse? I know Americans complain about the poor border control along the Rio Grande, but this is ridiculous.
A gang of terrorists faced down Egypt, and now they want a more moderate terrorist to do in Rafah what he couldn’t do in the rest of Gaza. Abbas lost control of the territory last year when Hamas conducted an armed revolt against the Palestinian Authority. It only took Hamas five days to seize Gaza from a clearly unprepared Abbas. What makes the US, Egypt, and the Arab world think that Abbas can hold Rafah with poor lines of communication, no strategic position, against an enemy that just chased Egypt off of the border crossing?
Israel has essentially shrugged at the suggestion. Supposedly the West and Egypt will backstop Abbas, but if they couldn’t backstop Egypt, Abbas won’t fare much better. Either way, it’s moot for Israel, which has to see this as a disaster through which everyone must pass before anyone gets serious about dealing with Hamas. Let Abbas give it a try — and when that fails spectacularly, maybe the Hamas problem will get real attention.