By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
The mythological unicorns are back. Media is once again reporting that Egypt might give part of the Sinai to the Palestinian Gaza Strip. All thanks to an article at Al Masry al-Youm, we get claims that “President Donald Trump is mulling a proposal to create a Palestinian state in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that would significantly expand the territory of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.”
These kinds of reports always come with neat amounts that make them seem real. “According to the paper, Egypt would give up 720 kilometers in the area of Rafah and El Arish.” And Israel supposedly gets land in return in the West Bank. The story comes up every year. In early 2017 it was in Huffington Post in Arabic, claiming that an Israeli general and mentioned it. Under this report “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.”
The Palestinian Authority had rejected it. The plans for Sinai are also reported in Arabic media as part of a “Mossad conspiracy” that involves an “old Zionist plan” to settle Sinai. These “plans” also get air in other media. In 2015 Middle East Eye claimed the Giora Eiland had proposed it. “Tayeb Abdel Rahim appeared to be referring to a plan unveiled by Eiland in 2004 that Israel hoped would be implemented after the withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from Gaza – the so-called disengagement – a year later. Under Eiland’s terms, Egypt would agree to expand Gaza into the Sinai in return for Israel giving Egypt land in the Negev.” Once again, the origin of this story is actually Palestinian refusal of such a plan, which never existed anyway. In 2014 it also popped up. In this report Yaakov Peri was quoted as being “cautious” about the plan. But Breaking Israel News claimed “Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has reportedly offered to give Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas part of the Sinai Peninsula adjacent to Gaza to establish a contiguous Palestinian state in those areas.”
The Washington Post also reported on it in 2014. The source was Israel’s Army Radio; “Israel’s Army Radio caused a stir here Monday when it reported that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi had proposed ceding parts of his country’s territory in the Sinai Peninsula to create an autonomous, demilitarized Palestinian state.” But wait. ” It was also flatly denied by all parties involved, with Egyptian state media quoting Sissi as saying “no one can do that” and Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah releasing a statement saying no such proposal had ever been discussed.” Jonathan Cook at Al-Jazeera reported about it again in June.
Every report is the basically the same. Either it is based on the comments of some Israeli general or politician, or it is based on Palestinian denials that such a plan exists. Once the stories make their way into Israeli media they then percolate up into Arabic media and international media. A non-existent plan, then becomes a “fact” as people condemn it. At the Egyptian Independent Ibrahim ElBahrawy even wrote in February 2010 that Egypt must “populate Sinai to thwart Israeli expansionist plans.” And what are the plans? “A study published by Al-Masry Al-Youm on 28 January warns that Israel intends to both pressurize and encourage Egypt to give away a 720-kilometer stretch of land in Sinai, extending from the border with Gaza to Arish, after President Mubarak leaves power.”
And the usual suspects are involved: “Reserve Major General Giora Eiland from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies–who was responsible for a study titled “Regional Alternatives for the Idea of Two States for Two Peoples”–said that Washington had told Israel that it would be better to postpone pursuing such a scheme until Mubarak leaves power.”
So let’s look at the facts
Egypt rejects the proposal
The Palestinians reject the proposal
The US doesn’t think the proposal exists
So how would the plan come about? How can you re-draw the borders of Gaza, which is not a country and give a non-existent country a part of Egypt, a part of a sovereign state? No state in the international community would recognize that, and Egypt opposes it. Egyptian people even oppose giving a few islands to Saudi Arabia. Israel doesn’t want a Palestinian state in Gaza, it has laid siege to Gaza for ten years precisely because it fears Gaza becoming a terror state
So Israel opposes the plan to
So why do media keep reporting that some Egyptian newspaper reported this plan and then pretend that various administrations are considering it? Why do they believe conspiracy theories that are usually written, not to support such an idea, but to condemn it. The Egyptian press may report these myths just to whip up popular resentment, or to spread rumors.
There is no Sinai plan. There never was a Sinai plan.
It’s like a winged horse. It doesn’t exist.