A group of prominent Egyptian lawyers have filed a lawsuit against the Egyptian government aimed at blocking any moves to resettle Palestinians in the Sinai Peninsula, following a report last week that Israel was set to discuss with Washington a plan to establish a Palestinian state 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.
The suit was filed in response to a claim by Israeli Minister without portfolio Ayoub Kara (Likud) last Tuesday, ahead of the meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, 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.
“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.
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.
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.
Adli and Ali were involved in a lawsuit last year against the Egyptian government over the controversial planned Egyptian transfer of the Red Sea islands of Sanafir and Tiran to Saudi Arabia, in which Israel also played a role.
Earlier this month, Egyptian media played a taped conversation between the Egyptian foreign minister and an Israeli envoy, apparently confirming the close coordination between Cairo and Jerusalem on the issue.
Israel has previously said it gave written approval for the move because the two Red Sea islands figure prominently in the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement signed in 1979.
But the move is deeply unpopular in Egypt, where it is seen as selling off parts of Egypt in exchange for Saudi cash. Egypt’s High Administrative Court last month upheld a ruling voiding the government agreement to hand over the two islands.
The two Red Sea islands figure prominently in the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement signed in 1979, which promises safe passage to Israeli civilian and military ships through the narrow waterways of the Straits of Tiran. The Egyptian blockade of the waterway to Israeli shipping in 1967 was a key casus belli for Israel that led to the onset of the Six Day War.
Under the Egyptian-Saudi agreement, the islands are to be transferred to Saudi control in 25 years, giving Riyadh a direct hand in ensuring the fulfillment of the peace treaty with Israel.
Saudi officials have said they were committed to “all Egyptian commitments” related to the islands.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.