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PALESTINIANS DEMAND NEW GAZA STRIP BORDER

Palestinian Official Dahlan: 'The Northern Border Of Gaza Strip Must Be Moved 2 Kilometers Inside Israel'

Israeli Reaction: 'Forget It!'

Israel Debates If 750 Egyptian Army Troops Will Spell End Of Sinai Demilitarization

Gaza Strip

Palestinian negotiators have demanded that the Gaza Strip border be moved two kilometers north inside Israeli territory. This was revealed by IDF General (ret.) Giora Eiland, the head of the national Security Council in a recent briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Eiland said Israel categorically rejected the Palestinian demand. The Israeli official went on to say that although a number of important issues must still be resolved, he is confident the unilateral Israeli withdrawal can be carried out on schedule starting after August 15th.

Muhamad Dahlan

The Palestinians have apparently taken a page out of Hezbollah’s book… they may be planting the seeds of a future feud over the northern border of the Gaza Strip after Israel's withdrawal. IDF General (ret.) Giora Eiland says the Palestinians have sprung a new 'gimmick' on Israel. At a joint meeting recently, senior Palestinian official Muhammad Dahlan demanded that the Gaza Strip border in the north be moved two kilometers inside Israel. Eiland said Israel 'made clear' this was not going to happen. What are the borders of the Gaza Strip anyway? The cease-fire agreement of 1949 did not include a demarcated map of the Gaza lines. It was not until the 50's that Israel and Egypt signed an agreement with a map that included an exchange of territory 2 kilometers south. This marked the frontiers until the Six-Day War in 1967 and it formed the basis of the Oslo Agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinians in 1993.The fact that the Palestinians have come up with this latest demand comes as a surprise to Israel. Although General Eiland spoke of it as Palestinian spin and nothing more than a gimmick, Committee chairman Yuval Steinitz of the Likud called it a dangerous precedent. Although, Israel may think the Gaza file will be closed after the Israeli withdrawal, the Palestinians might have other ideas in mind to keep it open and a cause of dispute. The Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon is a case in point. In May 2000, all IDF forces were pulled out of south Lebanon as has been verified by the United Nations. However, Hezbollah guerrillas continued to launch attacks from south Lebanon on the pretext that the IDF still occupies the Shaba farms area, which the U.N. says is inside Syrian territory. Therefore the Shaba farms area is part of the Israeli-Syrian theater which has not been resolved and nothing to do with Lebanon.

Philadelphi Axis: This is a narrow strip of some one hundred meters in depth that runs 14 kilometers separating the borders of Egypt and the Gaza Strip and which is controlled by Israel. The Palestinians have tunneled under the corridor to smuggle arms and explosives from Egyptian controlled Sinai into the Gaza Strip. How will the arms smuggling be stopped if Israel withdraws from this security buffer as part of the upcoming disengagement plan? The Israeli Egyptian peace treat permits only lightly armed Egyptian policemen and not military personnel to patrol Sinai which is demilitarized. Cairo says the policemen are not strong enough to stop the arms smuggling; it is willing to take control if Israel agrees to 750 Egyptian troops replacing the policemen after the IDF withdraws from the Philadelphi Corridor.

Egyptian Soldiers

These Egyptian Border Guards would be armed with light weapons and anti-tank rockets and carry out anti-smuggling patrols in armored cars. The proposal is supported by Sharon who says it will not alter the demilitarization of Sinai. Other officials disagree and the public debate cuts across political lines. Israeli security officials contend that Egypt could have stopped the arms smuggling with the policemen but has not because it wanted a pretext to get the Egyptian army back into Sinai. Critics argue that it does undermine the demilitarization of Sinai and Cairo will eventually exploit it to send more Egyptian army units that will again pose a threat to Israel. The Jewish state is in a double bind over the question; if Israel withdraws from all of the Gaza Strip but leaves an IDF force in the Philadelphi Axis, international law will view it as if Israel has not totally evacuated. The Israeli presence would continue to be another flashpoint between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel's parliament the Knesset is to hold a full scale debate on the issue and Attorney General Mazuz has been asked to rule on whether the proposal to allow 750 Egyptian troops in the Philadelphi Axis constitutes an amendment to the peace treaty, requiring the Knesset's approval.

Time-line: Although a number of questions have still to be resolved, General Eiland believes the disengagement can be implemented on schedule. As of three moths ago, the Palestinian Authority has dropped its hostile approach to Israel's unilateral withdrawal and Eiland spoke of 'reasonable security and military cooperation' with them. But if the terrorists attack during the 4-week pullout, the IDF will move swiftly into Palestinian firing areas such as Khan-Yunis.

David Essing

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