Agreement on Movement and Access (Rafah Agreement)

The term "Agreement on Movement and Access" (Rafah Agreement) refers to a set of two documents whose purpose is to regulate the movement and access to and from the Gaza Strip following the Israeli Disengagement from Gaza.

Definition

The term "Agreement on Movement and Access" (Rafah Agreement) refers to a set of two documents ("Agreement on Movement and Access", and "Agreed Principles for Rafah Crossing") whose purpose is to regulate the movement and access to and from the Gaza Strip following the Israeli Disengagement from Gaza.

Background

In the agreement, Israel waived its complete control over the external perimeter of the Palestinian territories (the Gaza Strip) for the first time since the 67' war. Responsibility in the Rafah crossing1 was transferred to Egypt and the PA under the observation of an EU Border Assistance Mission.2

The official goal of the Disengagement Plan was to end Israel's responsibility over Gaza. However, following the Disengagement (8/05), in order for Israel to achieve at least a de-facto international recognition of its end of responsibility over Gaza, Israel was required to withdraw from the external perimeter of the Gaza Strip.

The Agreement on Movement and Access between Israel and the PA3 (11/15/05) was reached through negotiations facilitated by the US and EU. The agreement regulated the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza-Egyptian border, and established a target date of November 25, 2005 for the full operation of the new border regime.

Key Elements of the Agreement

1. Rafah Crossing - Will be operated by the PA and Egypt. A third party will have the authority to ensure that the PA complies with the terms of the "Agreed Principles for Rafah Crossing".

2. Crossing Points - The border passages will operate continuously and function as an international border.

3. Passage between Gaza and West Bank - Israel will allow the passage of convoys between Gaza and the West Bank to facilitate the movement of people and goods (see: Safe Passage)

4. Gaza Seaport - Israel has agreed that the construction of a seaport can commence. Security measures will be similar to the third party model used at Rafah.

5. Airport - Discussions will continue on issues of construction, operation, and security of an airport.

Third Party Involvement

Based on the Agreement, the European Union established a Border Assistance Mission for the Rafah Crossing Point (hereinafter EU BAM Rafah).

The mandate and scope of the Mission are as follows:

1. Mandate: The force will actively monitor and evaluate the PA's performance with regard to the implementation of the Agreement. In addition, the force will contribute to the capacity building of the border control and customs operation, and to the liaison between Palestinian, Israeli, and Egyptian authorities in all aspects regarding the management of the crossing point.

2. Authority: The EU BAM Rafah has the authority to ensure that the PA complies with all applicable rules and regulations concerning the Rafah crossing. In case of non-compliance, it has the authority to order the re-examination and reassessment of any passenger, luggage, vehicle or goods.

3. Scope: The Mission began on November 25, 2005 for duration of 12 months, and will include approximately 70 personnel.

To date (September 2006), only a portion of the Agreement has been implemented. The Rafah crossing as well as additional crossing points (i.e. Erez, Karni) have been established as an international border. However, establishment of a safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, the construction of a seaport, and the construction of an airport have yet to be advanced.4

Sources

  • Agreed Documents on Movement and Access from and to Gaza; full text.
  • EU Border Assistance Mission for Rafah Crossing Point; full text.



1 The Rafah crossing is situated on "Philadelphie Route" that marks the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

2 The withdrawal from the external perimeter and the transferring of responsibility over security arrangements for the Rafah crossing to Egypt and the PA poses a significant challenge to the principle of a demilitarized Palestinian State (See: A Militarized Palestinian State).

3 See: Who Should Be the Interlocutor: the PLO or the Palestinian Authority?

4 Israel has encountered the following additional difficulties in maintaining the Agreement:

  • Since the deployment of EU BAM (11/05), reports have shown that the smuggling of arms and goods to Gaza has substantially increased.
  • Since Hamas' victory, Israel has often closed the Rafah crossing, arguing that there is a large number of terror alerts threatening Israel.
  • Since the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, Israel has frequently closed the border crossing in order to exert pressure on the Palestinians to release the soldier. (Avi Issacharof, Ha'aretz, 9/3/06).