from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Palestine in the Sinai?

September 9, 2014

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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Several days ago news reports "revealed" a proposal by Egyptian President Sisi to extend the territory of Gaza south into the Sinai. According to the story as Israel Army radio carried it, the area to be added to Gaza is five times the size of the current Gaza. The idea is that this area would accommodate all the Palestinian "refugees," thus satisfying the demand for a "right of return." Palestine would consist of this new area and the current Gaza, giving the Palestinians more territory than if the 1967 "borders" were restored.

The idea of expanding Gaza is not crazy, given how overcrowded the place is. In 2004 Israeli Major General Giora Eiland, then serving as national Security Advisor under Prime Minister Sharon, proposed that Gaza be enlarged. This would require taking land from Egypt, and Israel (under the Eiland plan) would have compensated Egypt with lands further east that would have permitted an automobile tunnel linking Egypt and Jordan. The Eiland plan never went anywhere in part because the Egyptians would not consider parting with one square inch of sovereign territory.

Why would they now consider it? I can’t see why, and therefore believe the news stories carrying Sisi’s denial of the whole thing. The logic of enlarging Gaza is obvious, but the rest of the proposal is bizarre: Millions of Palestinian refugees coming to live in the Sinai desert? The PLO abandoning its claims to the 1967 lines in order to get land in Sinai?  Eiland’s more modest proposal was a way to deal with overcrowding in Gaza and nothing more, for which reason it was more sensible. If this new idea was genuinely floated by the government of Egypt, that must be seen as a nasty shot at the Palestinians and another reflection of how little they and their ambitions count in Cairo these days.

 

 

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