July 23rd, 2012
03:41 PM ET

Egypt opens to Gaza

By Elliott Abrams, CFR

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are solely those of the author. This entry of Pressure Points originally appeared here.

From the moment when Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 while the West Bank remained under the control of the Fatah Party and the Palestinian Authority, the question of Gaza’s relationship to Egypt has been open.

Gaza was under Egyptian control from 1948 to 1967, under Israeli control from 1967 to 2005, and under Palestinian Authority control from 2005 to 2007. After the Hamas coup in June 2007, Egypt under Mubarak largely retained the border controls that Israel had put in place. Mubarak viewed Hamas with suspicion, as a radical group that was part of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Perhaps more surprisingly, Egypt’s new government, itself dominated by the MB, has continued those controls.

But that will change. Egypt’s new MB president, Mohammed Morsi, met in Cairo last week with the Hamas leader Khaled Meshal (and will meet soon with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh). According to the Hamas spokesman, Gaza will soon be connected to the Egyptian electricity grid and natural gas pipeline.  This means its economy will be tied to Egypt, not Israel – its current energy supplier.

The ability of Gazans to travel to Egypt is also being broadened. Some press reports state that: “Egyptian officials announced Monday that Palestinians will no longer need visas to enter the country, ending part of a five-year blockade on the Gaza Strip…Gazans will now be able to leave the coastal enclave freely. The decision also applies to Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Officials at Cairo’s airport said they have received instructions to allow Palestinians of all ages to enter Egypt without any procedural impediments. Deportation rulings for Gazans in Egypt were also canceled.” Other reports suggest that “Cairo will facilitate the entry of Palestinians to Egypt, but will not entirely remove regulations.” At the very least, more Gazans will travel more easily to Egypt.

As an editorial in The National, the English language newspaper in Abu Dhabi, notes, these are significant developments that may forever change the Gaza-Egypt relationship. Here are excerpts from the editorial:

“Meshaal hailed a ‘new era’ in Egyptian-Palestinian relations, and there were signals at least of a welcome change. For many years, and certainly since the start of the crippling Israeli siege of Gaza in 2006, Egypt has played a shameful role as an accomplice to the blockade of Gaza.

“Already the Morsi era is changing that. The crossing at Rafah now allows more Palestinians through each day, and may soon be open 24 hours a day.

“But a new era in relations will bring its own challenges…if Egypt opens the border, it is likely that Gaza will continue to draw closer to Egypt, with more business and personal links created. There is nothing wrong with stronger ties with Egypt, but Gazans’ compatriots are in the West Bank, not over the border in Sinai.”

As that last line implies, an opening of the border and a reliance on Egypt for energy will cut ties between Gaza and Israel and closely connect Gaza to Egypt while the West Bank faces Jordan. In the short run, the impact may be small. But, over the years, it seems likely that Gaza and the West Bank will grow further and further apart.

Post by:
Topics: Egypt • Israel • Palestinian Authority

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. poggytutu

    wasn't hamas democratically elected in 2007?

    July 23, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Reply
    • Lyndsie Graham

      That it was poggytutu, that it was! Opening the Gaza Strip could be the best thing that happened to the people of Gaza in a long time. I'm all for it!

      July 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        Indeed, Gaza had been known for being an open-air prison for decades.
        Mr. Abrahms shouldn't worry too much about "Gaza and the West Bank will grow further and further apart". Situations are fluid there. We don't know how they all come out!
        By letting the Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt, it would restore order and boost the economy of the Bedouins in the Sinai and curb illegal activities like smuggling.

        July 23, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
      • Thinker23

        Can you elaborate on that, j. von hettlingen? I'm intereted to know how allowing the terrorists from Gaza free pass into Sinai will "curb illegal activities" there, if you don't mind...

        July 23, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • ted

      This is a good thing. Gaza merges with Egypt, West Bank with Jordan, and they will finally leave Israel alone, or not.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Reply
  2. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Gaza's integration with Egypt may actually be a good thing. Israel can then deport the "so-called" Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem and also in other parts of Israel to Jordan and integrate those areas also into a pure, peaceful, Jewish homeland of Israel.

    300 Million Americans, and over 1 billion Non-Muslim Indians (Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists & Jains) are solidly behind such a plan.

    GOD BLESS AMERICA. GOD BLESS ISRAEL. GOD BLESS INDIA.

    And,

    GOD SAVE EUROPE from Islamization and rapid decay.

    July 23, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Reply
    • Florin Neamtu

      You know how the 10 lost tribes of Israel are...er... lost? So, how is it today's state is 'Israel'? The Palestinians are Canaanites, including Israelites, who were Arabized. In other words, when the Arabs conquered the Levant, they were culturally dominant, but in fewer numbers with regard to the natives. Genetically, that is, the Palestinians are still largely related to the ancient inhabitants of Canaan.

      Not so for the Eastern European "Jews" who colonized Palestine. Whiter than most europeans, they may have a remote, small genetic link {likely mainly or only patrilineally} to the ancient M.E. – but they are *less* related to the folks you read about in the Old Testament than the Palestinians.

      So, idiots like you who don't appreciate history or genetic don't represent 300 million americans. You represent Zionism, which is nothing more than an ethnocentric nationalism built on a quasi-historical, largely fictive mythos.

      The tribes of Israel are long gone and the Zionists merely appropriated the name. 'Judea' was more accurate and used more in the 19th century {e.g. "Judea declares war on Germany"}. Even that was wildly inaccurate. The Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn claiming a gOd-given right, a gOd-given "chosenness" have less link to ancient Nazareth and environs than the Palestinian Arabs – who are referred to as "so-called" only by the obdurately ignorant.

      July 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Reply
      • Aja

        Hello F Neamtu, i like the sense of history in your reply. Can you imagine such comments coming from know-nothing sentimentalists. Its time, real people tell the real stories with facts and figures, so that, at least the peace that is pervented by falsehood, is is given and sustained by truth.

        July 23, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Espen Goffeng

      And a big hoorah for ethnic cleansing, Amit. You don`t get to see that very often unless it`s tied to some religiouis, nutcase, bronze-age reasoning. You should check your numbers by the way. Before you use every other person to back you up against their will, check the UN voting that happens in October (November?) every year. From the top of my head I think its called "A peaceful resolution to the Palestine issue". Check those numbers out, and you will see that the US and Israel is in splendid isolation on the issue. Year after year after year.

      July 23, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Reply
      • U.S.

        So what? Does 'truth' follow majority?
        Ethnic Cleansing is not necessarily a religious phenomenon.
        Millions of Germans were ethnically cleansed by the allies (yes, the USA!) in Europe after WW2.
        .

        July 24, 2012 at 8:29 am |
      • nina

        Under Sh @t – Do you have any proof of this genocide. If you bothered to do any research-if you are able, you will find that the U.S. in fact went into Germany with the best civilized intentions and due to that, Germany and the USA have an excellent relationship.
        Must be incredible to be so stupid but we both know you are just hate mongering.
        The problem is that you think we are all as stupid as you.
        Without stupidity, you would just be ignorant.

        July 24, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Muslim American

      Amit for President 2012. he speaks on behalf of 300 million Americans.

      July 23, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Reply
    • Babar Khan (Pak)

      Well Mr.Amit how about the Gulf countries sending back all those good for nothing Hindus occupying all those jobs in Dubai,Qatar,Abu Dhabi etc on which native Muslims have the first right back to the poverty stricken hell hole called India so they can de-pollute the sacred arab land from the filth of idolatry and animal worship.

      July 24, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
  3. poggytutu

    to amit
    god bless palestine also. god doesn't choose sides.

    July 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Reply
    • U.S.

      Maybe it’s time to realize that there is no God?

      July 24, 2012 at 8:31 am | Reply
      • Grammy

        There is no allah as he was made up, invented by Muhammed to ensure personal gratification.

        July 24, 2012 at 9:54 am |
      • Quigley

        Can you prove Grammy, that Allah really does not exist? He's the same God worshipped by the Christians and the Jews.

        July 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
      • muslim traitor

        Allah is not the God of Christianity or Judaism. My God is good and loving.Allah is the genocidal figment of mooohamed the pig.

        July 25, 2012 at 5:53 am |
    • Thinker23

      Well, genius, if God does not choose sides HOW COME He will bless Palestinians (but not Israelis)?

      July 24, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  4. Aja Gana Ali writes from Maiduguri, Nigeria.

    In the safety of far away America, AMIT the non-muslim Indian is setting the world against the muslims. Are yaar, tum baagal ho gai. How can u carry tumhari indian local socio/political issue and make it international. ZABANGKO LAGAMDO Bhai.

    July 23, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  5. Rafay Farooqi

    I think this will bring a positive change in the region as a whole.

    July 23, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Reply
    • Grammy

      Are you able to explain your comment?

      July 24, 2012 at 9:57 am | Reply
  6. Matt

    Amit is ignorant and a perfect example of an Indian who has no problem repressing the Assamese, Orissians, Kashmiris, Tamils and Sikhs.

    India should be broken up so that South Asia can live in peace. India has invaded Goa, Hyderabad, Sikkim, Bhutan and Kashmir.

    But back to the Gaza issue, Hamas is a democratically elected government and finally Egypt does the right thing by opening up the border.

    July 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      I have to agree that Hamas is indeed a democratically elected goverment of Gaza. By voting for Hamas the Palestinians got what they've asked for. No one but Palestinians themselves can be blamed for the consequences of their decisions.

      July 23, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  7. Aja

    Gaza, Palestine and Arabs is an issue beyond Islam and Muslims alone. Thats the craddle of the three Religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism and you find all of their followers among the Arabs(F Neamtu just prove that the Arabs are more closer to the oroginal jews than the present European and American Jews), and therefore they need the peace please.

    July 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      One side can start and maintain a war. BOTH sides are necessary to make peace. If and when the Palestinians will produce leadership that will be ABLE and WILLING to stop violence, recognize Israel and negotiate a peace agreement will peace become possible. Not sooner.

      July 23, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  8. Chris R.

    Not so fast:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-07-23/egypt-eases-travel-for-palestinians/56437690/1

    July 24, 2012 at 4:25 am | Reply

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