Wednesday, November 16, 2005

in her statement, the Secretary of State makes an important historical error

In announcing the deal that she brokered between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Secretary of State Rice makes an error that mischaracterizes the actual history of the region. The deal gives the PA control of the border crossings into Gaza and a sea port. Of the deal, Secretary Rice states:

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. Two months ago, Israel and the Palestinian Authority took an unprecedented step on the road to peace with the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, returning control of that territory to the Palestinian people. Israeli and Palestinian leaders have been hammering out practical arrangements to gain the benefits of that withdrawal and improve conditions in the rest of the Palestinian territories.

. . .

First, for the first time since 1967, Palestinians will gain control over entry and exit from their territory. This will be through an international crossing at Rafah, whose target opening date is November 25th.

This mischaracterizes the history of the region. The Palestinians did not have "control over entry and exit from their territory" before 1967. In fact, in 1948 Egypt annexed the Gaza Strip and controlled its ingress and egress, not the "Palestinians".

Indeed, Palestinian Arabs never had control over the territory. Before 1948 the area was under the control of the British through their mandate, before that it was under the control of the Ottoman Empire, and before the Ottomans it was under the control of various foreign rulers.

Now it is likely this was simply a mistake by the State Department Speechwriter. At worst it is a continuation of the Arabist point of view that Israel is the source of all problems in the area and nothing bad happened until 1967 when Israel occupied the Gaza Strip after the Six Day War and its defeat of the Egyptian forces controlling the strip. The statement distorts history by asserting that the Palestinians had a state or even control over the area before the 1967 war. They did not.

How successful the deal will be is also hard to determine. Giving the PA border control with European monitor supervision will likely increase the flow of heavy weaponry into the region. The opening of the Gaza port will provide an easy location for ships loaded with weapons from Iran and other terrorist supporters to land. As we saw in the Karin-A incident, a freighter can carry massive quantities of heavy weapons such as missiles, mortars, anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons and tons of small arms, explosives and ammunition.

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