Tuesday, July 05, 2005

New Gaza-West Bank Rail Link Agreement: Pluses and Minuses 

Haaretz announces that Israel and the Palestinians have reached agreement on safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank via an eventual rail link once the disengagement is completed. Here are some of the pluses and minuses I see in the agreement:

PLUS: Palestinians will finally be able to increase their economic activity.
MINUS: High priced arms deals between smugglers in Gaza's Egyptian tunnels and West Bank terror cells isn't quite the economic activity we were looking for.

PLUS: It may be possible to limit the smuggling by somehow arranging for Israeli security checks of all passengers and cargo using the safe passage.
MINUS: To the best of my knowledge, any delay caused by Israeli security searches is a blatant human rights violation, unless you count purse checks for grandmothers entering malls with their grandkids inside Israel. Israel will probably reap less abuse if it simply disallows the passage altogether.

PLUS: Development of the rail link may bring international funds into the region.
MINUS: Any international money would likely be diverted to the usual causes, bribes and bombs, leaving the rail link to fester as another unfulfilled Israeli obligation anyway.

PLUS: Israel will no longer be accused of trapping Gazans in a crowded little prison.
MINUS: Israel will now be accused of trapping Gazans together with West Bankians in adjoining cells of a larger prison with limited visitation rights.

MINUS: Palestinian trains, like their Israeli counterparts, run the risk of explosives being smuggled on board.
PLUS: The Palestinians won't suffer onerous Israeli-level security expenses trying to keep the bombs off the trains. A few helpful signs mounted in the passenger cars should be sufficient: "Shahid, have you checked your safety switch? Have a nice day."

MINUS: Palestinians are getting the rail link without first demonstrating suffient progress toward democracy in their present totalitarian leadership.
PLUS: The trains ought to run on time.

MINUS: There is no guarantee the rail link, or any other Israeli gesture, will forestall future Intifada-style violence.
PLUS: At least Israel can threaten to blow up the tracks when it happens.

MINUS: Firing weapons and rockets from the train will allow Palestinians to attack previously unreachable places within Israel.
PLUS: Their accuracy is bad enough already without firing from a moving platform, so they probably won't hit what they're aiming at -- this should at least keep schools and hospitals safe.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: