Egypt's decision to reopen the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip is aimed more at improving the image of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces than at helping the Palestinians.

Already on the first day that the terminal was reopened, Palestinian travelers discovered that Egypt's ruling military council was exploiting the event as a publicity stunt.

First, the Egyptian authorities limited the number of Palestinians who were allowed to travel through the border crossing to only a few hundred each day.

Second, the Egyptians banned many Palestinians from the Gaza Strip from crossing the terminal for "security reasons."

These restrictions are not really different from those that were imposed on the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip by the former regime of Hosni Mubarak.

The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the Hamas government were among the first in the Arab world to welcome the downfall of the Mubarak regime. But in wake of the new-old travel restrictions, they are beginning to realize that the joy over the success of the Egyptian "revolution" was premature.

Some Palestinians believe that the military council's restrictions are the result of a visit to Cairo by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian Authority fears that the reopening of the border crossing would bolster Hamas's standing and tighten its grip on the Gaza Strip. Despite the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement reached in Cairo last month, Abbas continues to relate to the Islamist movement as a political rival and not as an ally or partner.

The Palestinian Authority is said to be upset by Egypt's decision to exclude its representatives in managing the border crossing. Abbas loyalists who used to run the border crossing under the supervision of European monitors were forced to stop when Hamas seized full control over the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.

The Egyptians also have their own reason for keeping the Gaza Strip closed.

The military council in Cairo is afraid that lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip would strengthen not only Hamas, but also the Muslim Brotherhood organization in Egypt. Although some of the military officers running the country have displayed sympathy toward the Muslim Brotherhood, they still do not want to see Egypt fall into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood organization.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will try to stay in power for as long as possible despite its promise to hold elections before the end of the year.

Further, the Egyptian authorities fear that an open border with the Palestinians would appear as if Egypt is once again responsible for everything that happens inside the Gaza Strip – a role that the Egyptians have been avoiding fulfilling since 1967.

It is now obvious that Mubarak's successors also want the Gaza Strip to be seen as Israel's responsibility alone.

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