Egypt denies any plans to give Sinai to Palestinians
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Egypt denies any plans to give Sinai to Palestinians

Spokesman for President Sissi says possibility raised by Israeli minister is ‘unrealistic and unacceptable’

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi speaks during a press conference on February 18, 2017 (AFP/Simon Maina)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi speaks during a press conference on February 18, 2017 (AFP/Simon Maina)

The spokesman for Egypt’s president on Thursday categorically denied Israeli reports that Egypt has proposed giving up part of the Sinai Peninsula for the Palestinians to set up an independent state.

In a statement, Alaa Youssef said the issue has not been discussed or presented “on any level.”

“It’s unimaginable to get into such unrealistic and unacceptable proposals especially in Sinai, which is a dear part of the nation,” he said.

His remarks came at the end of a meeting on Thursday between top commanders of the Egyptian army and police with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo.

The reports of establishing a Palestinian state in Sinai were first mentioned by Israeli minister-without-portfolio Ayoub Kara (Likud) last Tuesday, causing an outcry in Egypt.

Kara, ahead of the Feb. 15 meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump in Washington, claimed that the two leaders would discuss a plan to establish a Palestinian state in Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula and not in the West Bank, reviving an idea long rejected by the international community.

The-then Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara arrives for the weekly government conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, December 4, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem)
Then-Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara arrives for the weekly government conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, December 4, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem)

“Trump and Netanyahu will adopt the plan of Egypt’s Sissi. A Palestinian state in Gaza and Sinai. Instead of Judea and Samaria,” Kara wrote. “This is how we will pave a path to peace, including with the Sunni coalition.”

Kara was referring to a reported 2014 Egyptian proposal to resettle Palestinian refugees in a large tract of land in the Sinai Peninsula to be annexed to the Gaza Strip. While the plan was rejected by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and denied by Egyptian officials, Israeli ministers welcomed the reported proposal as a rejection of efforts to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank.

Following Kara’s claim a group of prominent Egyptian lawyers filed a lawsuit against the Egyptian government aimed at blocking any moves to resettle Palestinians in Sinai.

Human rights lawyer Khalid Ali said in a Facebook post Saturday (Arabic) that he and other lawyers had petitioned the Egyptian administrative court to prevent any forcible resettlement of Palestinians in the territory.

Both Israel and Egypt denied the plan was being discussed but Ali claimed in his Facebook status that “the suggestion of settling Palestinians in Sinai is not a dream or illusion, but rather a serious plan adopted by the Zionist entity (Israel) to move all residents of the West Bank to Sinai,” according to a translation by Palestinian news agency Ma’an.

Another lawyer involved in the lawsuit, Malik Adli, told Ahram Online that Egyptians “welcome any Palestinian refugees, but not in a border area of national security concern, and because this does not comply with Egypt’s historical position supporting the two-state solution and the preservation of the Palestinian identity,” Adli said, adding that such a plan “would be solving the Israeli problem, and not the Palestinian one.”

The two-state solution has long been favored by the international community as a just settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would see a Palestinian state established alongside the Jewish state of Israel.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC on February 15, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC on February 15, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

But the notion took a hit last week when the US, under the new Trump administration, signaled that it was no longer particularly committed to the two-state solution and would support what the two sides would agree on. Trump said in a joint press conference with Netanyahu last week that he could “live with either” a one-state or two-state solution.

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