I’m not going to discuss the moral, legal, or diplomatic implications of this move. But I do recall (though I don’t have links handy) that various “human rights” activists have been claiming since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza that Israel was nevertheless “occupying” it via a blockade. Moreover, even if the blockade didn’t amount to an occupation it was immoral, illegal, and so forth.
When asked why they leveled so much criticism at Israel for the blockade, but almost none at Egypt, which was also blockading Gaza, the only coherent answer that was forthcoming was that Israel was somehow making Egypt enforce the blockade. The sensible response was that Israel can’t “make” Egypt do anything, and that Egypt enforced the blockade because Egypt thought it was in its own interest to do so.
Now that Egypt has ended the blockade, we can definitively say that the sensible response was correct. The current Egyptian government has apparently decided that its strategic interest in containing Hamas is secondary to the public opinion brownie points it will receive for easing the Palestinians’ plight–not to mention that the policy wasn’t very effective at containing Hamas.
It would be nice to think that our friendly neighborhood human rights activists will now admit they were wrong, that Egyptian policy re Gaza wasn’t somewhat being secretly controlled by Israel, and that more public pressure on Egypt, instead of myopically focusing on Israel, might have ended the blockade sooner. But I’m guessing that we will see exactly zero such admissions, because it would amount to admitting the unhealthy and unjustified obsession with Israel that is prevalent in “human rights” NGO circles.
UPDATE: Just for example, here are two pieces from Oxfam referring to an Israeli blockade of Gaza, with no mention of Egypt. Here’s a lengthy piece from Human Rights Watch calling on the U.S. to pressure Israel to end the blockade, which has only the following about Egypt: “Human Rights Watch also called on Clinton to press Egypt to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza to allow humanitarian supplies to enter from there. According to recent news reports, hundreds of truckloads of aid are rotting on the Egyptian side of the border.” Note that HRW couldn’t even be troubled to advocate that Egypt open its border with Gaza, only that it allow in humanitarian aid–something Israel, the main object of HRW’s critique, was already doing.
FURTHER UPDATE: There’s a very good reason that Egypt has until now refused to open its border with Rafah. Egypt wants Gaza to be solely Israel’s responsibility, but Egypt occupied Gaza from 1948 to 1967, and there are many in Israel who would like to see Gaza become Egypt’s responsibility once again–which would of course make it less likely that the West Bank and Gaza will become a unitary Palestinian state in the future.
Any move to integrate Gaza’s economy with Egypt’s could be a slippery slope leading to Egypt taking more and more of a role there.
Someone concerned solely with humanitarian issues has no stake in this debate, and would be just as happy to see goods flowing through Egypt to Gaza as through Israel. But then you have to assume that all the talk of Gaza’s “humanitarian crisis” is really primarily about humanitarian concerns, and not about broader political objectives.