Sunday, March 6, 2011

Egyptian Statement on Gaza

Yasser Othman, Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinians, has stated that Egyptian military leadership is considering easing travel restrictions on Palestinians leaving the Gaza strip. Othman noted that no immediate changes are planned. It is unclear whether these statements are policy indications or rhetoric at a time when the military needs to establish legitimacy in Egypt as a temporary ruling authority.

But it is also worth noting that even were these changes to occur, they would not amount to a total reversal of the closure of the Egypt-Gaza border. The comments do not indicate that restrictions on certain goods, or on construction materials would also be changed. also, the statement does not mention Israel or express a policy position toward's Israel's blockage of Gaza. And Palestinians leaving the Gaza strip are not a security threat to Israel in the first place (the statement expresses no change in the criteria of what can be brought back into Gaza).

Nonetheless, the Israeli government should be prepared for statements of more sweeping change. Establishing and maintaining relationships with the Egyptian army will be critical at this stage, as will planning a response to any new changes which mitigate PR damage to the Israeli government.

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