Steps to a two state solution: For Israel, for Palestine, for peace
Step Nineteen: Pressure Egypt to permanently open the Rafah crossing
The Rafah Crossing represents a crucial route to the outside world for the people of Gaza and is the only pedestrian crossing between Gaza and Egypt. (The tightly restricted border between Israel and Gaza has a crossing at Erez, as well as a commercial crossing at Kerem Shalom). After Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, the Agreement on Movement and Access came into force and the number of monthly entries and exits through Rafah reached around 40,000.
However, after Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007, the border was largely shuttered and only those falling into strictly limited categories – such as patients, pilgrims and foreign residents – were able to make use of its occasional openings. While the crossing began to open more often after 2010 – and restrictions were further loosened in 2011 to the degree that entries and exits reached 2005 levels – jihadi terrorism in the Sinai led Egypt to begin tightening border controls in 2013, with the crossing shut almost permanently from late 2014. Moreover, the discovery of smuggling tunnels crossing the border has led Egypt to take a series of measures – a demolition campaign to construct a one-mile wide buffer zone and the building of two walls (the second, of reinforced concrete, was built in February 2021) – which have thus far met with only limited success.
In 2018, Egypt once again started to allow Rafah to open more regularly, although time-consuming pre-registration controls remained in place and prior to the closing of the border during the pandemic, entries and exits remained way below the levels seen in 2005. This year, journeys through Rafah have risen to levels not seen since 2013. As public health allows, Egypt should permanently reopen the Rafah Crossing, while enforcing appropriate controls both to protect its own security and to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.