In a break from the policies of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's military rulers have decided to permanently open the country's Rafah border crossing with Gaza on Saturday in an effort "to end the status of the Palestinian division and achieve national reconciliation," according to Egypt's official news agency, the Middle East News Agency, via the AP. Mubarak had previously restricted the movement of people and goods along the border (pictured above, during Palestinian protests in May) as part of a blockade Israel and Egypt imposed on Gaza after Hamas took control of the territory in 2007.
The AP notes that while most cargo passes through Israel's border with Gaza, the move is still significant because it gives Gaza's Palestinians "a way to freely enter and exit their territory" for the first time since 2007. What's more, the decision might increase tensions with Israel, and must be considered in the context of Egyptian-Israeli relations following Egypt's January 25 uprising. In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald today, Hossam Zaki, a senior adviser to the Egyptian Foreign Minister, said that Egypt's 1979 treaty with Israel remained a pillar of Egyptian foreign policy but that presidential and parliamentary elections later this year could imperil the relationship. "My sense is that if Israel continues to ignore international calls for achieving peace on a just basis, and allowing the Palestinians to establish their state, there will be more and more bitter and negative feelings towards Israel, and the difference now, after January 25 is that no government in Egypt will be able to ignore those feelings," he said.