Predicting a sharp and somewhat bewildering shift in policy, Minister Ayoub Kara said Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump will 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.
Writing on Twitter a day before the first meeting between Netanyahu and Trump since the billionaire businessman took office in January, Kara said that the two would give their support to a proposal reportedly put forward by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
“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 report as a rejection of efforts to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
While Netanyahu has declined to signal support for an independent Palestinian state in recent weeks, officials insist he still backs a form of the two-state solution with full demilitarized Palestinian autonomy in much of the West Bank. He has never expressed support for the Sinai plan, however.
Speaking with The Times of Israel, Kara said that he had discussed the issue with Netanyahu on Sunday in an effort to convince him to push the plan.
“There is no other realistic option. We cannot have a state in Judea and Samaria. This is the only path,” he said.
Kara said that Netanyahu agreed with him and said he would bring up the issue with Trump. “The issue is on the agenda,” Kara added.
A veteran Likud MK, Kara was appointed minister without portfolio in the Prime Minister’s Office last month after having served as deputy minister of regional cooperation since 2015. As such, his comments can be viewed as a direct statement from the PMO.
Israeli government officials, however, declined to comment on the statements.
A spokesman for Kara later appeared to backpedal on some of the claims, saying that the minister was stating what he “believes” will happen and not revealing policy decisions.
Netanyahu spent the day before leaving to Washington in discussions with ministers, including a four-hour meeting with the high-level security cabinet.
To the chagrin of some in his right-wing coalition, Netanyahu reportedly told ministers that he would declare to Trump his commitment to the two-state solution, but would also continue to spotlight the Palestinians’ reluctance to reach a peace deal. He said he would reiterate that West Bank settlements are not the main cause of the conflict, but rather the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Kara’s comments appear to suggest that the prime minister will adopt a more hard-line approach.
No stranger to controversy, in November Kara posted to his Facebook page details of a security-related incident involving the Jewish state, all elements of which are still under a gag order. The post was quickly taken down, but not before journalists and others saw the information.
A month earlier Kara drew condemnation from the Foreign Ministry when, during a visit to Italy, he suggested that powerful earthquakes in that country were divine retribution for anti-Israel actions in the United Nations.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.