Is Gaza-Sinai state a possibility for Palestinians?

T. Belman. In reading this article you must keep in mind that Al Jazeera is the mouth piece of QATAR and Qatar is being boycotted by the Gulf States and Egypt. Also the Dahlan plan which was recently disclosed further rejects Qatar. Something is afoot. This Plan is an alternate to the Jordan Option. Both seek to find more land for the Palestinians including the “refugees”. Don’t believe what they say about Gaza. Its mostly propaganda. Aside from that, there is a lot to take notice of.

The long-discussed plan could see most of Gaza’s population end up in Sinai, alongside millions of Palestinian refugees.

By Jonathan Cook, Al JAZEERA

Gaza has been the focus of intense talks behind closed doors in recent weeks as disquiet has risen among Arab states at the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the coastal enclave.

Palestinians there are enduring a scorching summer with barely a few hours of power a day, after Mahmoud Abbas‘ Palestinian Authority (PA) has refused to finance essential services. Abbas is trying to weaken his Hamas rivals who rule Gaza and assert his own authority.

In the background, an ominous deadline is rapidly approaching. Gaza is expected to be “uninhabitable” within a few years, according to United Nations forecasts. Its economy has been broken by years of Israeli military attacks and a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade, its population is mostly destitute, and its aquifers are increasingly polluted with sea water.

Gaza’s rapidly growing population of two million is already suffocating in a tiny patch of territory. In May, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned that Gaza was on the brink of “systemic collapse“.

READ MORE: Gaza power cuts – ‘This is the worst it’s ever been’

Israel has good reason to fear the future. Another round of fighting with Hamas, and heavy casualties among ordinary Palestinians, will further damage its image. And sooner or later, ordinary Palestinians are likely to rise up and tear down the security fences that imprison them.

For that reason, Israel and its patrons in Washington – as well as the Arab states – are desperately in search of a remedy.

It is in this context that Palestinians have been pondering the significance of a series of recent secret meetings between Egypt, Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, an exiled Fatahleader and enemy of Abbas. Are they paving the way to a permanent solution for Gaza – and one that will be largely on Israel’s terms?

One possibility – known to be much-favoured by Israel – would be to engineer the creation of a Palestinian state in Gaza and then pressure Egypt to allow it to expand into the neighbouring territory of northern Sinai.

According to this plan, not only would most of Gaza’s population end up in Sinai, but so too would potentially millions of Palestinian refugees.

READ MORE: Gaza’s ‘Game of Thrones’ – A fight to defeat resistance

Atef Eisa, a journalist in Gaza City, told Al Jazeera that the meetings between Egypt, Hamas and Dahlan were the main topic of discussions in the enclave: “People understand that Israel wants Gaza permanently separated from the West Bank. They wonder whether Sinai might be a way to achieve it.”

Suspicions of a Gaza-Sinai state are not new. In fact, there is strong evidence that Israel has been pushing aggressively, along with the United States, to create a Palestinian state in Sinai since it withdrew its soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip more than a decade ago.

Now rumours are circulating that the Sinai plan is being revived. Are the stars aligned for Israel? The US administration of Donald Trump is openly on its side, Hamas is at its weakest point ever, and Israel is increasingly close to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“There is no doubt that this is what Israel would like to see happen,” Shawqi Issa, a Palestinian analyst and former government minister in the PA, told Al Jazeera.

Issa believes Israel is now firmly set on turning Gaza into the Palestinian state, as part of a regional solution that might also see the Palestinian cities of the West Bank, currently in Abbas’ charge, ultimately falling under Jordanian responsibility.

But such a regional solution – what Israel calls its “outside-in” strategy – hinges on Egyptian help. “The chief difficulty with the Sinai option is allaying Egyptian concerns,” said Issa. “Israel and the United States can manage it only as part of a dramatic reshaping of the entire Middle East.”

The plan requires Cairo to accept a humiliating compromise of its sovereignty by surrendering territory in Sinai, possibly in a swap for Israeli land in the Negev. It would also undermine long-standing Arab demands that a Palestinian state be realised in historic Palestine.

But most importantly, the military regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is concerned about an expansion of Hamas’ influence into Sinai, strengthening support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ sister organisation and the main opponents of Sisi’s rule.

However, the extent of Egypt’s opposition is far from clear, especially given that it may be facing stiff pressure from the Trump administration and the Saudi-led Gulf states to alleviate Gaza’s problems.

READ MORE: Will Hamas survive the Gulf crisis?

In fact, Israeli media reports in 2014 suggested that Sisi may have agreed to cede 1,600sq km in Sinai to Gaza, expanding the enclave’s size fivefold. This would have realised Israel’s vision of a demilitarised Palestinian state it calls “Greater Gaza”.

Abbas is reported to have rejected the plan outright.

Not surprisingly, both Egyptian and Palestinian officials publicly denied the reports. Nonetheless, Abbas and his officials subsequently appeared to corroborate some aspects of the story.

At a meeting of Fatah loyalists in August 2014, Abbas reportedly said that a “senior leader in Egypt” had told him: “A refuge must be found for the Palestinians and we have all this open land.”

A week earlier, he told Egyptian TV that the Israeli plan had “unfortunately been accepted by some here [in Egypt] … Don’t ask me more about that. We abolished it.”

Abbas was unclear about whether these were references to Sisi or his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, who briefly headed a Muslim Brotherhood government before being removed by the Egyptian military.

At the same time, a report in the London-based Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat indicated how long the Sinai plan may have been gestating. An aide to Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president until he was toppled in 2011, quoted the former leader as saying: “We are fighting both the US and Israel … In a year or two, the issue of Palestinian refugee camps in Sinai will be internationalised.”

Indications that the Sinai plan may have been revived at a high level have come from Ayoub Kara, a government minister and ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In February, shortly before Netanyahu and Trump met in Washington, Kara tweeted that the two leaders would “adopt the plan of Egypt’s Sisi. A Palestinian state in Gaza and Sinai”.

Kara added that this would provide a regional solution of the kind Netanyahu and Trump officials have recently been talking up: “This is how we will pave a path to peace, including with the Sunni coalition [of Arab states].”

Egyptian officials again issued hurried denials. But Kara’s statements prompted so much alarm that a group of prominent Egyptian lawyers filed a suit against any moves by Cairo to resettle Palestinians in Sinai.

In what could be seen as a territorial precedent, the Egyptian parliament approved last month the transfer of two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia in return for billions of dollars of investments in Egypt’s ailing economy.

There are good reasons why Israel may believe all the pieces are falling into place to realise a Palestinian state mostly outside the borders of historic Palestine.

Hamas is at its lowest ebb ever, with Israeli officials speaking of the movement “fighting for its life”. After Egyptian and Saudi-led moves to sideline Qatar and Turkey’s support, Hamas is now all but friendless.

The carrot for Hamas of a Greater Gaza would be the chance to rule a much more substantial piece of territory, solving the enclave’s humanitarian crisis and rehabilitating the Islamic movement in the eyes of the international community.

Naji Shurrab, a political scientist at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, told the Jerusalem Post newspaper that the creation of a Palestinian state in Gaza would be the first step. But he believed territory in Sinai would be included too, once Egyptian security concerns had been addressed.

Israel has all but gone public with its close security ties with Egypt and the other key regional Arab state, Saudi Arabia. The two share Israel’s concern about curtailing Iran’s influence in the region and appear to be prioritising that alliance over the Palestinian cause.

Indications are that the White House is engaging in vigorous shuttle diplomacy with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan to help with what Trump has called the “ultimate deal” for peace.

What of Abbas, who has previously rejected the Greater Gaza plan?

He is much weaker than he was a few years ago and has alienated Saudi Arabia and Egypt with his continuing bitter feud with Mohammed Dahlan, his key rival within the Fatah movement and the man the Arab states would like to see succeed him.

Yoni Ben Menachem, a former Israeli intelligence officer, told Israel’s Channel 1 earlier this month that Sisi intends to bring down Abbas.

Dahlan has been living in exile in Dubai, in the Gulf, reportedly channelling money from the United Arab Emirates into Gaza and the occupied West Bank to buy popularity and political influence. There are long-established suspicions that Dahlan is close to officials in Washington, too.

In fact, Dahlan is rapidly emerging as a pivotal figure, promoted by Riyadh and Cairo. Could he be the key to unlocking the Greater Gaza plan?

Over recent weeks, a series of secret, three-way meetings between Dahlan, Hamas and the Egyptian security figures have been trying to devise a new power-sharing arrangement in Gaza.

Reports suggest that Egypt will agree to reopen Gaza’s Rafah crossing into Sinai if security is overseen by Dahlan loyalists rather than Hamas. According to some reports, Dahlan may even become prime minister of Gaza, with Hamas leaders serving under him.

Hamas has been trying to prove its good faith by creating a buffer zone inside Gaza to prevent fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), who have targeted Egyptian soldiers in northern Sinai, from using tunnels to find sanctuary in the enclave. “These measures serve as a message of assurance to the Egyptian side,” Tawfiq Abu Naeem, Gaza’s head of security services, told reporters.

What is slowly emerging looks suspiciously like a “Gaza state” project.

READ MORE: Gaza conditions ‘unlivable’ 10 years into siege

This arrangement could reassure Egypt and Israel that Hamas’ influence can be contained and that the movement may even be able to help in the fight against ISIL. A strong Dahlan would be expected to restrict Hamas efforts at arming, prevent rocket fire on Israel and block any alliance with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Assuming the model is successful, and with Abbas likely to be out of the picture soon, the Sinai plan could be properly unveiled with Dahlan and Hamas maintaining order in a Palestinian state in northern Sinai, sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

All of this could be sold to the watching world as a supremely humanitarian gesture – to end the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza and the region.

The question remains, however, whether Israel and the US can pull it off.

July 29, 2017 | 11 Comments »

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11 Comments / 11 Comments

  1. @ Abolish_public_education:

    It probably will be sometime in the medium future if they keep planning to give away their precious Land to savages, who always want more and more. They’ll have an army of 5 men and a police force of 2, and a printing press… by Arabs..

  2. The only thing the Pal vie for is the whole land of the Jews. They care less about the rest of the planet or universe. No different from the rest of humanity.

  3. @ Bear Klein:
    Wiki reports that San Marino has one of the smallest militaries in the world. It imposes a capital gains tax rate of only 5%; a big source of tax revenue comes from sales of postage stamps.

    Why can’t *Israel* be run like San Marino?

  4. Let us boil things down to two choices for Israeli independent action to stabilize the conflict and forget about this third party Jordan or Sinai solutions that are all wet and are nothing but a waste of time.

    1. Either Israel will find a solution in significantly reducing the amount Arabs in a version of a Sherman/Feiglin plan in all the Land of Israel or

    2. Israel adopts Bennet’s plan or a version of it were Israel applies Israeli Civil Law to the Jewish Towns in Area C and Jordan Valley, leaving the Palestinian Cities in Area A to be run by the Palestinians in an autonomous fashion something like San Marino (municipal level government with the trappings of a state excluding a military).

    One can start with option 2 as it would be more palatable to more Israelis to start and morph into option 1 when option 2 fails because the Palestinian stay war like and refuse to accept it.

    In either case option 1 or 2 the terrorists and their supporters must be eliminated or removed as much as that is possible.

  5. Relinquishing the Negev isn’t even legally an option.

    Land in western Negev registered in state’s name
    Justice Ministry recently completes large-scale registration of 100,000+ acres in western Negev to state of Israel, to help develop area.

    That’s this year, Justice Minister Shaked’s inititative.

    And it’s a bedrock of Israel’s Constitution that State land may not be relinquished.

    Basic Law- Israel Lands
    19 Jul 1960

    Basic Law: Israel Lands

    Prohibition of transfer of ownership 1. The ownership of Israel lands, being the lands in Israel of the State, the Development Authority or the Keren Kayemet Le-Israel, shall not be transferred either by sale or in any other manner.
    Permission by Law 2. Section 1 shall not apply to classes of lands and classes of transactions determined for that purpose by Law.
    Definition 3. In this Law, “lands” means land, houses, buildings and anything permanently fixed to land.

    Prime Minister
    President of the State

    *Passed by the Knesset on the 24th Tammuz, 5720 (19th July, 1960) and published in Sefer Ha-Chukkim No. 312 of the 5th Av, 5720 (29th July, 1960), p. 56 ; the Bill and an Explanatory Note were published in Hatza’ot Chok No. 413 of 5720, p. 34.

  6. The Arabs, backed by the UN, have been trying to get their hands on the Negev for 69 years. So, we should just give it to them, and spit on the memories of Leonard Bernstein and his heroic band, as well as Ben-Gurion and Weizman?

    Must we just spit on the heroism of the Greatest Generation?

    “Weizmann met Churchill on 4 November 1944 to urgently discuss the future of Palestine. Churchill agreed that Partition was preferable for Israel over his White Paper. He also agreed that Israel should annexe the Negev desert, where no one was living.”

    Got that? No one was living there. The Arabs will flood into any area that winds up remaining under Israeli sovereignty while the lands in their possession will be rendered Judenrein.

    Any relinquishment of land should be labeled for the treason that it is. The only concern should be how to get rid anti-Zionist Arabs, which is most of them. Obviously Zionist Muslims like Sarah and Mohammed Zoabi, and the Druze are not a problem. But, they are a handful of people, I am sure. The rest should be made to leave, as peacefully as possible, but they must be made to leave.

  7. I’m wondering if Eli Hertz didn’t omit something:

    from the widely quoted:

    March 7, 2008 | Eli E. Hertz
    On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States unanimously endorsed the “Mandate for Palestine,” confirming the irrevocable right of Jews to settle in the area of Palestine—anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea:

    “Favoring the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

    “Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That the United States of America favors the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which should prejudice the civil and religious rights of Christian and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and that the holy places and religious buildings and sites in Palestine shall be adequately protected.” [italics in the original]”

    Because the original resolution of the San Remo Convention of 1920 that this quotes adds the following after the caveat that the civil and religious rights of non-Jews shall be protected:

    …, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

    The original reads: “The High Contracting Parties agree to entrust, by application of the provisions of Article 22, the administration of Palestine, within such boundaries as may be determined by the Principal Allied Powers, to a Mandatory, to be selected by the said Powers. The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 8, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

    And, it clearly didn’t go down that way.

    Did it?

    Isn’t a contract a two way-street?

    If they can expel us, why shouldn’t we be able to legally expel them, especially when most of them — or their ancestors, given that UNRWA defines refugees by ancestry — were not even there at the time but came illegally later?

  8. “In the background, an ominous deadline is rapidly approaching. Gaza is expected to be “uninhabitable” within a few years”

    I seriously doubt it but assuming for the sake of argument that this is true, why should this be a problem? The agenda should be that the descendants of the illegal Egyptian, Jordan, Syrian, Saudi, Lebanese, Iraqi and other Arab immigrants who came during the Mandate period should be repatriated to their countries of origin and assimilated the way Israel assimilated the Jewish refugees from all of those countries, now 45 percent of Israel’s Jewish population.
    Jews made an oasis out of a desert. Most of the land Jews purchased that became the majority of Israel had been uninhabitable.The “Palestinian” Arabs took an Oasis that the Jews made in Gaza and made a desert of it.
    They made their bed. Let them be rescued from it by their own and taken back.

  9. It doesn’t matter from which Arab pocket and to which Arab pocket, land is swapped. This is the only phrase in there that means anything, and it means no good:

    “a swap for Israeli land in the Negev.”