Egypt, PA deny report that Sisi offered Abbas land in Sinai for Palestinian state

Abbas reportedly rejected plan that would expand Gaza to five times its current size and give PA autonomy in West Bank cities; Yesh Atid's Peri, Bayit Yehudi's Shaked say proposal worth exploring.

Sisi and Abu-Mazen (photo credit: REUTERS)
Sisi and Abu-Mazen
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority and Egypt on Monday strongly denied a report that claimed that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had offered PA President Mahmoud Abbas land in Sinai for a Palestinian state.
Israeli politicians, however, welcomed the reported offer.
Army Radio reported that the offer provided a 1,600 square kilometer area near the Gaza Strip, an area that would make the Strip five times its size.
The new territory, composed of Gaza together with the extra land in Sinai, would be a demilitarized state that would serve as a home to which Palestinian refugees would return, Army Radio said.
In addition to the “greater Gaza state,” the Palestinian cities in the West Bank would be under the autonomous rule of the PA, the report added. In exchange, Abbas would give up claims to a state within the pre-1967 lines.
Army Radio said that Sisi tried to appeal to Abbas to accept the offer, arguing that at his age (80), if he does not take this offer, those who come after him will take it.
It said that Abbas was not convinced and rejected the offer.
The report about the Egyptian offer first appeared in a number of Arab media outlets two weeks ago and was then denied by both the PA and Egypt.
On Monday, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the PA presidency, again denied the report, saying Sisi had never made such an offer.
Abu Rudaineh said that the idea of expanding the Gaza Strip toward Sinai was completely unacceptable to the Palestinians, Egyptians and Arabs.
Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a senior aid to Abbas, also denied the report, dubbing it a “fabrication.”
Abdel Rahim noted that this was an old idea that had been proposed by former national security adviser Giora Eiland.
The Palestinian official accused the Israeli media of publishing “fabricated stories” in order to distort the positions of the Palestinians and Egyptians.
A spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that the report was “completely baseless and untrue.”
Israeli politicians, meanwhile, responded enthusiastically to the report.
Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri, a former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief, said he’s surprised by Sisi’s generosity, calling the reported proposal “worth discussing seriously.”
He added: “This could solve problems that weren’t given a response in talks between Israel and the Palestinians so far.”
Peri also pointed out that Sisi’s “proposal” suits Egyptian interests, since there are problems with terrorism in Sinai.
Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked said that the Egyptian president “discerned what the Israeli Left has refused to understand” for decades: “The solution to the Palestinian problem must be regional and cannot fall on Israel’s shoulders alone.”
She called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to meet with Sisi and examine whether the reported initiative is possible.
According to coalition chairman Yariv Levin, Sisi’s reported plan is a “very generous offer,” but Abbas’s reported rejection of it proves that Palestinians “refuse to accept Israel’s existence,” he told Army Radio.