Egypt has made a bunch of headlines recently for its decision to clear a buffer along its border with Gaza in an effort to prevent smuggling into (and out of) the coastal territory, and also to fend off further militant attacks in the region (like last week’s attack that killed 31 members of the country’s military).
One reason I’ve seen this story so many times is that some of my friends have used it to suggest that critics of Israel are hypocritical for not speaking out against Egypt’s decision to destroy homes in the fight against terror. But that’s not what interests me about this story –if Israel were destroying houses within its own borders, those critics of Israel would find something else to complain about, but mostly it demolishes homes inside occupied territory (or, as in the case of Gaza, once-occupied territory).
What instead caught my eye here was how Egypt planned to use this buffer in its effort to stem smuggling:
The buffer zone, which will include water-filled trenches to thwart tunnel diggers, will be 500m wide and extended along the 13km border, officials told the AP news agency.
So Egypt is planning to build a moat along Gaza’s southern border. That’s not a terrible idea: tunnelers will have a hard time getting past the water, and even tunnels dug beneath those water-filled trenches will likely require serious and constant pumping.
As you may have heard, Israel has also been searching for a way to prevent Hamas from tunneling out of Gaza to attack IDF soldiers and civilians. One obvious challenge to adopting Egypt’s solution is that Israel’s border with Gaza is several times longer.
But even if that logistical challenge could be overcome, I think suggesting that Israel should complete the moat simply to prevent tunneling fails to appreciate the full potential of Egypt’s plan to end the cycle of violence that flares up in those parts every few years. Here’s what could happen if Israel and Egypt would just think bigger:
- Dig a moat along all of Gaza’s borders.
- Congratulate themselves on having turned Gaza into an island.