In an apparent retraction of a public statement made by PA President Mahmoud Abbas last week, a spokesman for Abbas denied on Monday that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi had offered to settle Palestinian refugees in an area within the Sinai Peninsula that would be annexed to the Gaza Strip.
Tayeb Abdel Rahim, secretary general of the president’s office, told the official WAFA news agency that a report Monday by Israel’s Army Radio whereby el-Sissi had recently offered to settle Palestinians on a 1,600-square-kilometer (618-square-mile) tract of land west of Gaza, a plan endorsed by the US administration, was “fabricated and baseless.”
According to Abdel Rahim, the initiative was the brainchild of former Israeli national security adviser Giora Eiland in a bid to “destroy the Palestinian cause” and was “rejected at the time by the Palestinian leadership.” However, according to Abdel Rahim, Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt welcomed the proposal during the tenure of deposed president Mohammed Morsi.
“This was one of the reasons for the glorious June 30 revolution [which ousted Morsi],” Abdel Rahim said. On Monday, Egypt also denied the Israeli radio report.
But Abdel Rahim’s comments seamed to contradict a speech delivered by Abbas to a Fatah gathering on August 31, in which the president indicated that the proposal had come up more recently.
While acknowledging that the idea was originally Israeli and saying it dated back to 1956, Abbas told the gathering that “now this is being proposed once again. A senior leader in Egypt said that ‘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.”
In an interview with Egypt’s Balad TV on August 23, Abbas said that the Israeli plan “was unfortunately accepted by some here [in Egypt]. Don’t ask me more about that. We abolished it, because it can’t be.”
The presidential spokesman told WAFA that “the Palestinian and Egyptian leaderships have one position, namely the establishment of a Palestinian state on the lands occupied in 1967 with Jerusalem as its capital. President Mahmoud Abbas has updated President el-Sissi on his future moves on all levels to reach that goal.”
Abdel Rahim urged Palestinian media to ignore the “dangerous” Israeli report, aimed at “tarnishing the national Palestinian position and that of beloved Egypt.”