Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice brokered a
deal between Israelis and Palestinians on the Rafah border crossing which
connects the "disengaged" Gaza Strip with the outside world.
Secretary Rice stepped in to help International Middle
East Envoy James Wolfensohn who lacked the political muscle and persuasion in
the border talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Wolfensohn nearly quit due
to a months long struggle for an agreement on the issue. The border crossing
has been a hot button issue and opening it is considered a prerequisite to
improve the quality of life of Gazan residents.
The border is tentatively scheduled to open on November
25. For the first time Palestinians will control the crossing. The European
Union, however, will receive a feed of real time images in an office with an
Israeli and Palestinian representative. According to the agreement, Gazans will
be able to travel to the West Bank in bus convoys by December 15 and truck
convoys by January 15.
Rice also urged Israel to hold further talks on the Gaza
airport which was discussed in the negotiations. Time will tell if Rice's words
are backed up by the US administration and if the agreement is implemented in
its entirety. US President George W. Bush's lagging domestic support for the
Iraq quagmire, the use of chemical weapons in Fallujah, and renewed claims of
torture gives him more reason to try to reinvigorate the stalled peace process.
But tough words have come from Washington before and faded over time.
These measures are crucial for the Palestinian people and
are the first step to sustainability and rebuilding after 38 years of crippling
occupation. The main issue still remains: will Israel continue its campaign of
extrajudicial assassinations, missile strikes, mass arrests and restrictions
The constant fear of incursions in the Gaza Strip still
grips the minds of Palestinians and affects the prospects for future tourism as
well as housing and business development. The Gazan economy cannot rely on
being an export society, with the conditions of the state being interrupted on
the whim of its neighbor. Israel used the guise of security frequently in the
past to impose its invasive policy on the Palestinian people.
While the borders will be under Palestinian
control, one must fear the "punishment" given to the residents of
Gaza if Israel becomes disgruntled with the border situation. Gazans felt
Sharon's iron fist after the "disengagement" through Operation First
Rain and history tells us that the iron fist will make a comeback.
Remaining positive is great for those in the West who
don't have a vested interested in the progression of Palestinian society. For
those more practical, we mustn't forget the promises of Oslo: independence, an
“honest broker,” reparations and a fair settlement for Palestinians. During the
years of Oslo, the Occupied Territories saw the biggest increase in settlements
in Israeli history, the transferring of control to the Palestinian Authority
came at snail's pace, and “renegotiations,” restrictions, and separation
strangled the Palestinian economy and workforce.
Let us hope for the best in the border arrangement between
Palestine and Israel, but let us also be wary, scrutinize the situation, and
let Israel and the world know that this is just a first step in a long
road to justice.
Remi Kanazi, a Palestinian-American, lives in New York
City. He is a freelance writer, and the founder and primary writer
for the political website, Poetic
Injustice. He can be reached at email@example.com.