Israeli officials on Monday enthusiastically embraced reports that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi recently offered the Palestinians an independent state in the Sinai Peninsula in return for dropping claims to the pre–1967 borders.
According to the offer, which was reported by the Arab media and by Israel’s Army Radio, Egypt would give the Palestinians land in the Sinai that would effectively expand the territory of the Gaza Strip fivefold.
This “Greater Gaza” would be a fully independent state under the sovereignty of the Palestinian Authority, and would serve as a homeland for all Palestinians “refugees.”
Major Palestinian Arab cities in Judea and Samaria (the so-called “West Bank”) would remain autonomous under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, but claims to the rest of the area would be dropped.
Certain details of the plan remained vague - such as what Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank would entail - but it represented the first time an Arab leader had been willing to “think outside the box” in bringing a proposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Predictably, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas outright rejected the proposal, preferring to stick to the same old land-for-peace formula that for over 20 years has succeeded in bringing nothing but increased conflict.
Israeli officials said that, Abbas’ rejection notwithstanding, the Egyptian proposal had to be taken seriously and explored in future peace negotiations.
“This could solve problems that weren’t given a response in talks between Israel and the Palestinians so far,” Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri told Army Radio.
Peri pointed out that the plan would also presumably help Egypt suppress the growing Islamization of the Sinai.
Right-wing lawmaker Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) said that even if the Egyptian proposal is never implemented, it highlights the fact that the “solution to the Palestinian problem must be regional and cannot fall on Israel’s shoulders alone.”
Like most Israelis, Shaked is quick to point out that the West Bank and Gaza only fell into Israel’s hands as as result of military aggression by her Arab neighbors.
Army Radio reported that el-Sisi continues to press Abbas regarding the plan, which has already won the support of the Obama Administration.