The idea of a Palestinian ‘state’ formed from Gaza and bits of the desolate vastness of Egypt’s Sinai desert adjacent to it has been evoked by Israel since 1956 and it is regularly raised from it’s political grave whenever an easy ‘solution’ that costs nothing to Israel is wanted for the Palestinian refugee question and the siege of Gaza.
The last time that happened was in February this year, and it has now been brought up again, and is now connected to the plot to install the exiled and disgraced former Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan as a leader of Gaza Strip, ruling together with Hamas.
A lot of claims attributed to Egyptian and Palestinian politicians are brought up in these occasions, especially in Israeli media, with denials usually following, so it’s hard to weed out real facts from rumours and what are on Israel’s and its supporters part wishful thinking.
A part of this is just a strategy by Israeli media and politicians to declare to their own audience that: “Here is a solution to Gaza and the refugee problem, but the ungrateful Palestinians refuse to accept it. See, we tried and now it’s their fault!”
A solution that was never realistically in the cards is invented and then used for propaganda purposes, with Palestinian leaders attributed speeches of questionable veracity.
As militants affiliated with the Islamic State control parts of the Sinai that Egypt supposedly – in Israeli claims – would allow to be annexed to Gaza Strip, this plan is currently more hollow than perhaps ever before.
That Egypt would be handing over a problem – one it seems to be unable to solve – to Palestinians by ‘giving’ them piece of barren desert it doesn’t control makes it a bit more likely that something like it might have been well brought up.
We also must remember that al-Sisi’s regime in Egypt is in process of handing over strategically important, but barren, islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia, so al-Sisi clearly doesn’t consider Egypt’s territorial integrity paramount – and Saudi-Arabia is one of Dahlan’s patrons along with its Gulf vassal states.
When this plan was evoked once again in 2004, Israel was still supposedly ready to compensate for the part of desolate Sinai desert to be handed to Palestinians by Egypt by giving Egypt a part of the more barren area of the Negev desert. But apparently Egypt’s situation and status has declined so much, that it doesn’t need to be given any compensation now.
In February the amount of sand and rock Egypt would have handed over to Palestinians would have been, according to rumours, mere 1600 square kilometres – yet the Israeli media fantasized that ‘millions’ of Palestinians could be moved there. (The actual numbers are given off-hand, while the headlines give an impression of the whole of Sinai being given over to the Palestinians.)
The size of the Gaza Strip could be tripled without a single Israeli having to move if Palestinians would be returned their currently uninhabited lands in Palestine 1948 adjacent to Gaza. But this is something that Israel doesn’t want – it has created the problem, but somebody else must pay for solving it.
The difference of a Gaza Strip with 365 sq kilometres of territory and 2 million inhabitants and a Gaza Strip with 2000 sq kilometres of mostly barren territory and ‘millions’ of more inhabitants would be just amplifying the size of a prison – and would do nothing to ‘solve’ the Palestinian question; not the occupation, not the siege nor the refugees.
Something which clearly hasn’t entered the minds of Israelis dreaming of it, and the alleged Arab ‘leaders’ and their United States handlers going along with it. Or perhaps this would be just moving the issue forward in time, beyond their time in power, as former United States’ president George W. Bush described his attitude towards the question of occupied Palestine, although he put it rather more crudely, true to his style.
What Egyptian citizens living in Egyptian Rafah and al-Sheikh Zuwaid think of this (the areas most likely to be handed over in these plans) is never raised.