Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected an Egyptian proposal to resettle Palestinian refugees in a large tract of land in the Sinai Peninsula to be annexed to the Gaza Strip.
Speaking to a gathering of his Fatah party in Ramallah Sunday, Abbas said that an unnamed senior Egyptian official recently approached him and suggested settling Palestinians in an area 1,600 square kilometers (618 square miles) large adjacent to Gaza, reviving an idea originally proposed by former Israeli national security adviser Giora Eiland.
“They [the Egyptians] are prepared to receive all the refugees, [saying] ‘let’s end the refugee story’,” Abbas was quoted by Ma’an news agency as saying.
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.
Abbas told the crowd that if Israel had its way, Gaza would become the Palestinian state while the West Bank would remain just an autonomy.
This was not the first time Abbas rejected an offer to solve the plight of Palestinian refugees living outside the West Bank. In January 2013, the Palestinian leader told an Egyptian newspaper that he had requested the Israeli government to allow refugees in Syria to enter the West Bank and Gaza.
According to Abbas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that the refugees waive their “right of return” to Israel proper as a condition for crossing the border, a condition Abbas rejected out of hand.
Abbas confirmed the report to the Times of Israel in a meeting with Israeli journalists at his presidential compound in April.