Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Palestine in the Sinai?

by Elliott Abrams
September 9, 2014


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.



Post a Comment 8 Comments

  • Posted by pnina judith

    I am confused. Was the offer made or not?

  • Posted by Yuval

    I would avoid the phrase “modest proposal” in these matters…

  • Posted by Gary Katz

    I would be pleasantly surprised if this solution ever came about, not because it doesn’t make sense, but because Palestinians moving to Gaza doesn’t address their leaders’ true objection: Jewish hegemony over “sacred Muslim land.” But if it ever happened, and the Palestinians built beautiful new cities in Sinai, no doubt the U.N. would still call them “refugees living in refugee camps.”

  • Posted by Elliott Abrams

    It’s not entirely clear, but the Egyptians are denying it vociferously.

  • Posted by Anne Roberts

    This reminds me of offers to the early Zionists of land in Rhodesia and else where to meet their needs. The Palestinians are asking for the land they inhabited previous to the Zionist take over, the gardens, the terraced hillsides it took centuries to build, the ancient villages and towns that hold their history, saints, stories and dream
    It is obvious that Sisi has no one’s interest but his paymasters in mind.

  • Posted by Guenter Schenk

    It’s an old idea of the Zionists to reduce Palestine to a spot or any other peace of land. But this won’t work because the Palestinians, just like any other people love their country, which they have been connected to for centuries and… only disconnected by the creation of the last settler state in history: Israel. What’s embarrassing: after the foreign (British and French) misleading “history-making” now it’s Americans (or is an American) to tell the Palestinians where their country should be… How this? 🙁

  • Posted by Adam

    At first I thought this was a great suggestion. Indeed it would resolve the refugee issue and perhaps bring prosperity to the citizens of Gaza. But on closer reflection, Hamas would probably be the true beneficiary. Just as Hamas can easily defeat Fatah in the west bank if given the opportunity, the same goes for a future Gaza*5 state.

    Let’s face it. The largest obstacle to peace is not land or water or access to holy sites. The true obstacle to peace is Hamas and other Palestinian rejectionists. As long as they, like the Hezbollah, receive massive amounts of funding from petrodollars, they will have the means to continue this conflict from wherever they are. This conflict will go on until their funding dries up.

    So let’s persevere and wait for the oil to dry up. We can do that.

  • Posted by diana

    to Guenter: “Evil always wins through the strength of its splendid dupes; and there has in all ages been a disastrous alliance between abnormal innocence and abnormal sin.”

    – G.K. Chesterton.

    I have no doubt that Palestinians love their land as much as Israelis do. But they have not been there for centuries as you wrongly claim.
    …[a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse….A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action….We never saw a human being on the whole route….There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

    Source: Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad. London: 1881 (New American Library, 1997).

    The British Consul Lord Lloyd of Dolobran in Palestine reported in 1857 that:
    The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is that of a body of population….

    In the 1860s, it was reported that “depopulation is even now advancing.”19 At the same time, H. B. Tristram noted in his journal that
    The north and south [of the Sharon plain] land is going out of cultivation and whole villages are rapidly disappearing from the face of the earth. Since the year 1838, no less than 20 villages there have been thus erased from the map [by the Bedouin] and the stationary population extirpated. 20
    Mark Twain, in his inimitable fashion, expressed scom for what he called the “romantic” and “prejudiced” accounts of Palestine after he visited the Holy Land in 1867.21 In one location after another, Twain registered gloom at his findings.
    Stirring scenes … occur in the valley [Jezreel] no more. There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent-not for thirty miles in either direction. There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. 22

    In 2005 Israel WITHDREW from Gaza living behind businesses, one of which was a very successful horticultural enterprise (look at the last interview Hillary Clinton gave to Jon Stewart – 3 to 4 minutes into the interview). The Gazans destroyed these enterprises saying that they didn’t want anything from Israel. The shooting started and Gazans proceeded to vote Hamas in. If I am being shoot at, I expect my gov. to protect me. Israel has said, before the invasion several times “if you stop shooting will do so. The blockade started in 2007 in response to rocket fire on Israel.
    Do you expect a gov. not to protect its citizens? And don’t forget that Egypt was and is also a partner in the blockade. GAZANS ARE THE RAT LAB FOR HAMAS, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, QATAR, and et al.

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