Border Games

If Israel rejects Hamas' terms for a cease-fire, then Cairo will consider unilaterally opening its border with the besieged Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said yesterday.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Abu Zuhri said Hamas' proposal was drawn up with Egypt, which allegedly guaranteed it would be implemented. Whether Egypt actually made any such guarantees to Hamas over the cease-fire is of little importance. What matters is that Hamas made Cairo responsible for opening its border crossing with the Gaza Strip. If it fails to do so, Hamas may stage a storming of the border like the one that took place in January. If Egypt opens the border unilaterally, however, it will precipitate a crisis with Israel.

Hamas is banking on the Arab public coming to its aid in the event of a border breach. Yesterday speakers at a Hamas-organized protest in Gaza threatened to punch a hole through the re-erected fences.

To prevent a repeat of a border storming, Egypt is undertaking huge efforts to bring about a cease-fire. It has promised Israel it will enforce inspection of goods entering Gaza through the crossing, but will not allow the presence of any Israeli officials or surveillance equipment. After all its efforts, Cairo would consider Israel's rejection of the proposal a slap in the face.

Opening the border between Gaza and Egypt will allow Hamas to reestablish its standing in Gaza. In addition, it will also create a new balance of power in the region. Such a balance may not necessary work against Israel and Egypt, as it will also require Hamas to abide by the rules expected of governments.