Egyptian President General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi recently proposed to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas a plan to settle Palestinians in their own expanded state, including currently-Egyptian land in the Sinai.
According to the plan revealed by Israel’s Army Radio on Monday, Egypt would provide a 1,600 square kilometer area (625 square miles) adjacent to the Gaza Strip, an area that will make the Strip five times its size today, and approximately three times as large as the West Bank. In that area, a Palestinian state would be established under the total control of the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian refugees and their descendants could return to this country. The area would be demilitarized.
In addition to that expanded Gaza area, there would be autonomy for Palestinians in the
West Bank Palestinian cities, where the Palestinian Authority would completely manage day to day life.
In return, Abbas would give up the Palestinian demand for Israel to withdraw from all land beyond the pre-1967 armistice lines. As the Palestinians would receive more than full territorial compensation in areas of the Sinai, it would be easier for Israel and the Palestinians to agree on their borders.
Abbas reportedly rejected the proposal on the grounds that it was not “logical” for Egypt to provide land to absorb the Palestinians. The Palestinian leader noted that the idea was first proposed to the Egyptian government in 1956, but was furiously rejected by Palestinian leaders such as PLO militant Muhammad Youssef Al-Najjar and poet Muin Bseiso who “understood the danger of this.”
“Now this is being proposed once again. A senior leader in Egypt said: ‘a refuge must be found for the Palestinians and we have all this open land.’ This was said to me personally. But it’s illogical for the problem to be solved at Egypt’s expense. We won’t have it,” Abbas said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was aware of the offer, and the United States gave a green light, according to the military radio station’s sources.
A similar idea was floated a few years ago by Israeli academicians and by National Security Adviser Giora Eiland, but was rejected by Egypt at the time. Now the person proposing the plan is the president of Egypt himself.
A number of Israeli politicians responded enthusiastically to the offer. Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, a former Shin Bet chief, said he’s surprised by Sisi’s generosity, calling the proposal “worth discussing seriously.”