Daniel Ben Abraham
The opposite of war is nuance

What’s the big deal about Rafah?

The world didn’t complaint so much when the IDF went into Khan Yunis. Nor, when the IDF went into Gaza City. Nor, when the IDF took over all of Northern Gaza.

Why is the entire world in an uproar about Rafah? Why have the Arab states so strongly opposed an IDF operation there? Why do they strongly pressure the U.S. to oppose the IDF operation in Rafah? The Arab states strangely haven’t been so insistent on anything post Oct. 7 since they told U.S. Secretary of State Blinken that not a single Palestinian is to leave Gaza.

Seems suspicious, no?

As Shakespeare said in Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Meaning, when so much of the Arab world is so strongly against something, maybe there’s something good for Israel in it.

The entire conflict rests upon Palestinians being trapped in Gaza, unable to leave, like a pressure cooker.

Why? There is no political process in Gaza, so Palestinians have no option but to support Hamas, even if Hamas brings suffering. And so they support Hamas. And Hamas can continue the war endlessly.

But if the Rafah border with Egypt were opened by the IDF, then, Gazans can vote with their feet, and leave. It’s like letting steam out of the entire pressure cooker conflict.

Mystery solved, our Arab allies aren’t afraid IDF will kill civilians, but that Israel will open the Rafah border to Egypt’s Sinai.

What might happen if Israel opens the Rafah border and lets through Palestinians who voluntarily wish to leave and seek asylum in the Sinai in Egypt, even temporarily?

Let’s see if we can count the game-changers…

  • Hamas actually becomes accountable, because if they cause war and Palestinians leave into the Sinai, Hamas’ ideology will be weakened (extremists are like fish who can only swim in a sea of moderates).
  • Hamas has to return the hostages, because if not, Palestinians will flood out of Gaza as the conflict continues.
  •  The Hamas ideology will not be able to benefit by causing war.
  • The Hamas ideology will be at opposite to the “Palestinian cause”.
  • There will be incentive amongst the entire Arab world to create an alternative to Hamas.
  • Egypt will become responsible for the welfare of Palestinians leaving Gaza.
  • The Arab states will become responsible for taking in Palestinians, as Egypt will demand they share the burden.
  • The world will no longer be able to blame only Israel.
  • The world effort will go from blaming Israel to helping Palestinian refugees.
  • The conflict will shift from furthering the Palestinian “cause” to helping individual Palestinians.
  • Palestinians will have a choice.
  • Hamas will attack Palestinians trying to leave and get bad media coverage.
  • IDF will protect Palestinians and get good media coverage.
  • Palestinians will get more ideological separateness from Hamas to support new leadership.

Not surprisingly, Egypt is threatening to abandon the Camp David Peace Treaty if Israel opens the Rafah border to let Gazans who wish to leave out. Of course, Egypt has obligations under international law it cannot blame Israel for, and cannot turn away Palestinians (who are refugees, thanks UNRWA) seeking asylum at Rafah. See:

While some may wrongly think this might be ethnic cleansing, the discussion here is only of allowing those Palestinians who voluntarily wish to leave because of the dangerous Hamas-caused war to do so, not forcing anyone. Suspiciously, nations gleefully accept refugees from every other conflict zone worldwide except Gaza, where people are being used as human shields by Hamas.

What might happen long-term as Palestinians who voluntarily wish to leave can go into the Sinai?

  • Palestinians will receive food, resources, and care in the Sinai that they cannot receive in Gaza because of Hamas.
  • Resources will flood into the Sinai, helping Egypt’s economy and development of the largely-undeveloped Sinai.
  • The UAE will be pressured to change its $35 Billion land investment bound for Egypt’s coast West of Alexandria, and to use the funds to help Palestinians in the Sinai in the East.
  • Enclaves of Palestinian areas, towns, and then cities will be built in the Sinai, where there is much more (23,000 square miles of) mostly uninhabited land – many times more Mediterranean coastal land than all of Gaza (141 square miles) Israel (8600 square miles) and West Bank (2100 square miles) that everyone is fighting over.
  • The “occupation” will end for all Palestinians voluntarily going into the Sinai.
  • The “open air prison” will end.
  • The Palestinians will be free to move, travel, visit other places, holy sites.
  • Palestinians can travel to other countries and have freedom.
  • A Palestinian state can form in the Sinai, as discussed in a 2014 deal Abbas rejected but Egypt’s President reportedly approved: 
  • Palestinians will have their own state, miles of beautiful Mediterranean coastline, a seaport, an airport, a chance to grow their economy bordering on two commercially-successful trading partner states, Egypt and Israel, with complete autonomy and self-governance.
  •  The Gulf Arab states will be encouraged to help moderate it, so extremists don’t  spread into their countries.
  • Palestinian terrorism will become a regional concern, not all dumped on Israel while others enflame it.
  • There will no longer be a zero-sum-game equation where the more land Palestinians get, the less land Israel has. Thereby, the two sides can cooperate toward all mutual goals that don’t harm the other.
  • Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank can have a choice to stay there ruled by Hamas or Fatah, or go into the Sinai and have autonomy and self-governance.
  • The problem until now has been that “Palestinian cause” is two separate ideological causes actually intertwined, 1) helping Palestinians, and 2) destroying Israel. The problem of the entire conflict is the world cannot help one without helping the other. This solution is to separate the two causes. By opening the Sinai, everything the world does to help Palestinians in the Sinai will weaken the second Palestinian cause of destroying Israel, instead of being a stepping stone.
  • Palestinians who want their own peaceful state and an end to occupation win. Israelis who don’t want to occupy Palestinians win. The world wins. Hamas loses. Palestinians get virtually everything they want, except closer to destroying Israel.

In other words, the world is opposing the IDF going into Rafah, because it’s a potential solution path for much of the conflict. And the world can’t have that, now can it.

Maybe we should start chanting, “free free the Palestinians!”

Come on, Israel. Be a light unto the nations.


About the Author
Daniel was born in Budapest, Hungary, to the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and grew up in New York City. Daniel obtained his Bachelor's degree from Penn State University, has a Juris Doctorate with a specialization in public international law. He is the author of several books and articles, including The PeaceMatrix™, about a theoretical new system for solving all human conflicts. Daniel's approaches to the challenges of anti-Semitism, terrorism, and Israeli and international peace and security combine understandings of psychology, philosophy, law, Judaism and spirituality, and metaphysics.
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