A funny little secret — there already is some kind of Palestinian Authority coordination at Erez

For the last week or so, as Israeli sanctions tightened to the point that Gaza’s only electricity-generating power plant had to shut down for lack of fuel, various politicians have suggested that re-establishing some kind of Palestinian Authority presence at the border crossings between Israel and Gaza might bring a workable solution.

Since the Hamas rout of Fatah security forces last June in Gaza in mid-June, there has been no PA coordination, and going in an out of Gaza has been like entering a Star Wars movie set — a menacing part of it.

Foreign journalists with an Israeli Government Press Office card (not Israelis with Jewish nationality, and sometimes not even Israeli residents, however) have been allowed to pass through the airport-like but now largely empty Erez Crossing.

On my last trip through Erez on 9 January, with a group of Israeli Arab doctors and an activist from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, I noticed that there was some kind of Palestinian coordination that had just been set up — at least a half a kilometer from the terminal, and possibly further. The IDF has pushed everything back, away from the terminal, and deeper inside Gaza. Only a plowed road and rolls of barbed wire are between the terminal and this new coordination office, set up in a little trailer that actually looks like an unauthorized Israeli outpost-settlement.

The person working inside is Palestinian. He had a mobile phone on which he communicated with the Israeli military through its radio option. He would not give out the number. He said he reports to the PA Civil Administration in Ramallah.

At the end of the day, at the official closing time, this same Palestinian was seen coming out of Israel’s terminal, heading back to his office — though it’s not clear if he was also heading back inside Gaza.

It seems likely that Israel set up this arrangement, and is controlling it… on behalf of and with the assent of the PA government in Ramallah.   However, it seemed that Hamas was also involved in the deal — Hamas police did not go beyond a big square bolder painted in blue with the word POLICE, some yards away from the new coordination office.

It’s strange that this development hasn’t been reported or announced….

Haaretz reported from Davos, Switzerland (where the powerful of this world meet every January), that “Israel could allow Gaza crossings to be opened under the security control of the Palestinian Authority, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said here Thursday. ‘If the PA’s security could be as effective as that of Jordan, Egypt, or even Syria, we would consider alleviating the situation [in the Gaza Strip] significantly’, he said [that’s a rather big if, actually]”

Barak added, according to Haaretz, “We’re not promising anything”.

Haaretz also reported that “Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said this statement was a source of hope. ‘We must seriously consider Israel’s security concerns. We are committed to non-violence and to solving the conflict by peaceful means’, he said”. The Haaretz report is posted here.

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