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Wednesday, February 7, 2024
Weekly Commentary: Time For Optimism - Smart Israeli Planning For Philadelphi Corridor Operation Can Satisfy Egypt's Primary Concerns

Weekly Commentary: Time For Optimism - Smart Israeli Planning For Philadelphi Corridor Operation Can Satisfy Egypt's Primary Concerns
Dr. Aaron Lerner 7 February 2024

Suddenly there is room for optimism:

#1. Hamas' demands are so outrageous that even Israel Channel 12 uses that adjective in its headlines. Israel's survival will take precedence over the hostages.

#2. The Saudi "consolation prize" which America has been offering in exchange for our forfeiting our future is a dead letter with the Saudi Foreign Ministry announcing that diplomatic relations would require withdrawal to the 1967 "Auschwitz borders" and the division of Jerusalem.

#3. Some smart Israelis can come up with solutions which address Egypt's concerns regarding an Israeli operation that clears out the Hamas terrorists from Rafah and destroys the smuggling tunnels crossing the Philadelphi Corridor.

I am sharing below a Google translation of the Arabic language article in today's Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed which details Egypt's concerns.

Egypt doesn't want an Israeli operation to cause or facilitate an invasion of Gazans into Egyptian Sinai.

Egypt also wants to be able to show the world that the Israeli operation is not forcing the closure of the Egyptian Rafah crossing.

Finally, Egypt does not want there to be a PERMANENT Israeli military presence in the Philadelphi Corridor. I emphasize the word "permanent" because so many "temporary" things in our region continue for decades. Also, technically, an Israeli border police force at a later stage would not constitute a "military presence" within the framework of the treaty between Egypt and Israel.

Please note: Egypt does not state that it has a problem with us killing Hamas members or blocking the smuggling tunnels (which they have claimed elsewhere do not exist).

Egypt doesn't say "don't propose any plans to invade Rafah or carry out operations in the Philadelphi Corridor."

What Egypt does say is that they do not feel that the plans which Israel has shared with them so far satisfactorily meet their needs.

So the ball is in our court.

And I am optimistic.

I am optimistic because if DM Gallant gives the instructions to COS Halevi to design these operations to achieve our objectives while meeting Egypt's needs there are more than enough smart people serving under him to figure this out.

The following is a Google translation:

Egypt demands guarantees from the occupation regarding a military operation in Rafah
Cairo Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed 07 February 2024

At a time when Egypt is participating as a mediator in the issue of the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip, it is engaged in another path that is no less complex than the prisoner exchange negotiations and a ceasefire in the Strip, which is linked to direct negotiations with Tel Aviv regarding Israeli intentions to launch a military operation in the Palestinian Rafah.

Egypt fears a massive wave of displacement of the people of the Gaza Strip towards Sinai, where there are more than 1.2 million Palestinians in Rafah. The two parties are also negotiating movements in the Philadelphia axis area adjacent to the Egyptian border, and the effects of Israeli military actions there on Egypt.

In this context, an Egyptian source familiar with the Cairo discussions with the Israeli side regarding the border region revealed some of the details of the meetings that took place between security delegations from both sides during the past few days.

An Israeli vision regarding a military operation in Rafah

He explained that "During his recent visit to the Egyptian capital, Ronen Bar, the head of the Israeli Internal Security Service, presented to Egyptian officials an Israeli vision that included two axes, one of which was linked to the border region and joint cooperation regarding it, whether currently or in the future, and the other included an Israeli vision regarding a military operation that he described as intensive in the Palestinian Rafah. " Which Tel Aviv considers the last center of power of the Hamas movement."

Egyptian source: Cairo cannot, under any circumstances, accept the closure of the Rafah crossing for many considerations

The Egyptian source told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, “The corridor linked to the border region, whether currently or in the future, is considered the closest in terms of reaching understandings between the two sides, unlike the other axis, which came in the meeting that brought together Ronen Bar with the head of the General Intelligence Service. Al-Masry, Major General Abbas Kamel, regarding launching a military operation in the Palestinian Rafah.”

Increasing the number of joint committees in the Philadelphi Corridor.

According to the source, “Among the ideas proposed regarding ensuring the security of the border region and the Philadelphia Corridor is increasing the number of joint security committees between the two sides.”

It is noteworthy that, according to the peace agreement signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979, a joint military and security committee was formed between the two sides, which meets periodically to coordinate regarding common issues related to the borders.

Egypt denies the existence of a plan to replace the Rafah crossing with the Israeli Kerem Shalom crossing

The currently proposed vision, which enjoys Cairo's support, includes the formation of more specialized committees in files related to border security, on the condition that there is no permanent Israeli military presence in that area, known as Area D in the security annexes of the Camp David Accords.

While it was raised through Israeli reports regarding a proposal related to closing the Rafah border crossing and transferring its route to the Kerem Shalom crossing, the source said, “The conversation in this matter is almost over, because Egypt cannot, under any circumstances, accept the closure of the Rafah crossing for many considerations, which is what "The Israeli side was informed about it at various levels." He revealed, at the same time, that “Cairo also informed officials in the US administration that maintaining the crossing in the roles it performs is a necessity to preserve balances, and security in that region is also very special.”

Possibility of launching a military operation in Rafah

Regarding the Israeli desire to launch a military operation in the Palestinian Rafah, the source reduced the chances of carrying out that operation. He said: "At least according to the vision presented by the Israeli side, the matter will be very difficult and unacceptable, whether from Cairo or from the American administration, which no longer accepts large-scale military actions in densely populated areas."

The source revealed that Cairo "asked the Israeli side, during the last meeting, for sufficient guarantees so that this operation would not lead to the displacement of thousands of Palestinians towards Sinai under the weight of bombing and military operations."

The source pointed out that “Ronen Bar and his accompanying delegation did not provide final responses regarding what Cairo requested,” stressing that “Egyptian demands must be presented to the War Council to decide on them.” He revealed that "an Israeli delegation is scheduled to arrive next week in Cairo, to present the final position of the Israeli government regarding the demands set by Egypt."

The source said, "Egyptian estimates regarding the military operation that Israel intends to carry out in Rafah tend to be difficult and perhaps impossible to implement, given the many obstacles, whether military or international."

He explained, "There is an Egyptian view of the Israeli movements and statements in this regard, that they come within the framework of escalation to obtain gains in other files, perhaps including pressure on Hamas and the resistance during the negotiation process regarding the prisoner exchange deal."

Ammar Fayed: Egypt is only concerned with the issue of ensuring that the scenario of displacement to Sinai is avoided

He said: "Maybe raising the ceiling of demands is aimed at directing the resistance's decision regarding the prisoner deal." He added: "Practically, the nature of Rafah cannot carry out a lightning military operation, in light of the presence of an entire brigade from the Hamas movement alone, consisting of four battalions. This is in contrast to the presence of elements of other factions, led by (Islamic) Jihad."

The source explained, "On the other hand, in light of the indications that lead to the nearness of reaching an agreement on a relatively long ceasefire in exchange for the exchange of prisoners, it will be difficult to implement the process that Israeli leaders intend to undertake."

The source pointed to “another obstacle, which is the difficulty of emptying the Rafah area of displaced people soon, according to the scenarios proposed by the Israeli government to reduce the number of displaced people there in response to Egyptian concerns,” saying that “the issue of opening paths to evacuate hundreds of thousands and return them to areas where there are still "Military operations are almost impossible."

He added: "For example, among the proposals was the return of significant numbers to the northern regions, before reports of a gradual return to the administrative control of the resistance and the Hamas movement over those areas and the appearance of police and local employees there, which necessitated the resumption of Israeli aircraft bombing and the renewal of its operations there." ".

The source continued that Israel "promotes that Rafah is the last stronghold of Hamas leaders, in light of the extensive military operations underway in Khan Yunis. On the other hand, the bulk of the tunnel networks in Gaza have not yet been discovered - according to American intelligence reports - and that the large parts are undiscovered." The discoveries in the Hamas tunnel network are located in areas where Israel says it has ended operations, and where Hamas leaders may be present, which makes the Israeli push for an operation towards Rafah undesirable.”

Commenting on this, the Palestinian military expert and analyst, retired Major General Wassef Erekat, told Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed that “with the presence of a million and a half million residents and displaced people in Rafah, any military operation means declaring a new war on the Palestinian people.”
He added: "This confirms the enemy's intentions to commit wars of genocide and ethnic cleansing and displace the Palestinians by military force, under aerial bombardment, ground artillery, and snipers from Israeli soldiers outside the borders. It confirms that pushing them from the beginning to flee to Rafah was for this goal."

For his part, Ammar Fayed, a researcher in political science and international relations, said in an interview with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, “It is clear that Egypt is only concerned with the issue of ensuring that the scenario of displacement to Sinai is avoided, and therefore it does not view any operation in Rafah except in terms of the extent of its impact.” “On the increasing possibilities of that scenario, and not from the standpoint of the human suffering that will result from it.”

Fayed added that Egypt had already provided great guarantees previously, destroyed and flooded the tunnel network, and evacuated the border area of its residents, and now Egypt will not object to any new arrangements as long as they do not detract from its sovereignty over its lands, as he put it. He continued: "In general, I do not think that the dispute over the nature of these arrangements will remain, and most likely the two sides will reach an agreement."

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