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Israel sees upside in hole in Gaza wall

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"It seems to just confirm the sheer desperation and the failure of the policies on all sides. International policy appears to be largely stuck in a confused series of corners, and we don't see any prospect of a route out," says Robert Lowe, the director of the Middle East Program at Chatham House in London, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs. "Despite Bush's visit, despite Annapolis, there's no real sign of optimism."

Although Israeli officials have registered disappointment with Cairo's shortcomings in policing their border with the Gaza Strip, there has also been an equally palpable touch of relief in their words, as if the break in the wall effectively re-attaches Gaza to Egypt, which governed it until the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1967.

Egyptian officials balk at this idea. Asked if Egypt would consider taking responsibility for Gaza, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossam Zaki is unequivocal: "Certainly not. We have no interest in doing that, and we won't."

"That seems to be wishful thinking on Israel's part," Mr. Lowe says. "And if the international community sticks their heads in the sand, wishing it away, it's the same as the Israeli approach. It doesn't work because Israel does still have effective control over Gaza, and the ability to operate an economy with any minute degree of success is impossible as long as Israel is in control of Gaza's borders."

In light of the break, however, Israel has tried to underscore the extent to which, when it said it was disengaging from the Gaza Strip, it meant it. Following its removal of settlers and soldiers from Gaza in August 2005 and the Strip's declaration as a "hostile entity" – militants have launched more than 200 rockets from Gaza into Israel in the past week alone – Israel says it is no longer occupying Gaza and should not have to provide services to it.

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