Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denied reports that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi offered to settle Palestinian refugees in an area within the Sinai Peninsula that would be annexed to the Gaza Strip.
At a meeting with PA officials in Ramallah on Thursday, Abbas said that the idea had never been proposed and that the Egyptian leader rejected the “unjustified” idea, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.
The Palestinian leader did acknowledge that such an idea was proposed, but under the brief rule of ousted former president Mohammed Morsi. The issue was quickly abandoned, he said.
The denial came despite an earlier public statement made by Abbas that indicated the idea had indeed been brought up with the current Egyptian president and that he had rejected it.
On Monday, a spokesman for Abbas denied the report.
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 that 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.”