The Fatal Attack on the Israel-Egypt Border Should Lead to Concern, but Not Panic

Early Saturday morning, an Egyptian policeman snuck through gate along the Israeli-Egyptian frontier and killed three Israeli soldiers. Cairo initially claimed that the shooter entered Israeli territory chasing smugglers—who are endemic to the area—but there is now some evidence that he was motivated by jihadist ideology. Whatever the exact circumstances, Yonah Jeremy Bob contends that there is no reason to conclude that the arrangements in place for guarding the border are fundamentally flawed:

The biggest question arising from the incident, though there are many, is whether the IDF failure during this episode was tactical, and mostly limited to the unusual particular circumstances, or strategic, exposing a much greater threat that has been ignored until now. Despite how shocked the country was that the quiet prevailing for 45 years over its border with Cairo was suddenly shattered, so far the clear signals are that the problems here were tactical and not strategic.

The details that have come out so far include that there was a small border opening which was poorly secured, but that was done on purpose to make it easier for IDF forces or maintenance workers to get through quickly to complete a short and specific mission. Also, the soldiers on guard duty had shifts that were too long and they may not have been protected enough from someone seeking to attack them.

So far, there are indications that the Egyptian police officer was quietly a radical jihadist who was using his position to stage a terror attack or maybe was trying to perpetrate both smuggling and some killing. The point is that, at least to date, the attacker was a fluke—a statistical anomaly.

However, what is most likely is that some weeks or months from now, nothing will have changed much, there will have not been many violent copycats, and Israel’s other borders—which really are still far more dangerous—will need most of the resources as usual.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Egypt, Israeli Security

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood